Eliminate civil juries to ease court delays caused by COVID-19, says personal injury lawyer
'It's an old cliché, but justice delayed is justice denied,' says Greg Monforton
Many civil jury trials are at serious risk of being postponed because of pandemic-related court closures — and the only way to prevent further delays is to eliminate juries altogether, according to Windsor-based personal injury lawyer Greg Monforton.
"Although we truly value our clients' right to have a jury of peers decide their case, the realities of COVID-19 mean that our clients will suffer many more years of delay to get their cases to court," Monforton said in a statement.
"COVID-19 has closed our courts to jury trials. Eliminating juries will avoid more delay because we can immediately try cases 'online/remotely' before a single judge."
In the statement issued Monday, Monforton said that he — along with all 12 lawyers in his law firm — responded to a "call for input" by Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey to express support for an initiative which would eliminate civil jury trials in Ontario courts.
Speaking to CBC News, Monforton said he believes there should be some exceptions to eliminating juries in all civil trials. He points to cases involving "community values," such as false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, sexual assault and medical malpractice as examples.
But for cases concerning personal injury lawsuits involving a vehicle, for example, Monforton believes a jury serves no further purpose but to add wait times to the trial date. He said the two issues at play in these types of cases are determining if the driver is at fault and agreeing on a level of compensation for victims.
"The problem with jury trials over the past 10 or 15 years is that they have become far more complex in the number of expert witnesses, often experts in vocational rehabilitation and future care and life-care planning, as well as medical experts, orthopedic experts, neurological experts, whatever the case may be," he said.
The trials themselves take too long ... It's an old cliché, but justice delayed is justice denied."- Personal injury lawyer Greg Monforton
"So trials have become so long — two, three, four weeks sometimes that when we appear before the court requesting a trial date and we tell the court that this trial will take two or three weeks to conclude, we're given dates well into the next year, nine months, 12 months, 15 months down the road."
Monforton added the need for jury trials has resulted in "most serious injury lawsuits" taking between five and seven years to conclude.
"The trials themselves take too long," he said. "It's an old cliché, but justice delayed is justice denied."