Justice Audrey Ramsay has held that the January 1, 2020 amendments to Rule 76 (Simplified Procedure) act prospectively with respect to the elimination of jury notices. A party cannot retroactively strike a jury notice simply by amending the prayer for relief to comply with the present Rule 76 parameters.
In Thomas v. Aviva 2022 ONSC 1728 (CanLII), the remaining plaintiff brought a motion to amend her claim to reduce the prayer for relief to the $200,000 monetary limits of Rule 76 and strike the defendants’ jury notice. Justice Ramsay granted the amendment to the plaintiff’s prayer for relief, but refused to strike a jury notice and transfer the matter to Simplified Procedure.
The original claim had been issued in April 2018 seeking $1,000,000.00 in damages. The defendants delivered their defence with a jury notice in September 2018. A partially successful mediation took place in March 2020 after which the remaining plaintiff brought this motion.
While it likely did not have any significant impact on Justice Ramsay’s decision, the plaintiff had not set the matter down for trial by the time the motion was heard on September 20, 2021. The thrust of the plaintiff’s submissions were that the reduction in the prayer for relief to comply with the Rule 76 limits mandated that it continue in (post-January 1, 2020) Rule 76 where jury notices are prohibited.
The defendants countered that the right to a civil jury trial was both a substantive and statutory right (under s. 108 of the Courts of Justice Act). Moreover, the defendants relied upon Rule 76.14 which required a previously filed jury notice to be struck out before the action could be continued under Rule 76.
In reaching her decision, Justice Ramsay importantly distinguished her reasons from the March 2021 Lightfoot v. Hodgins decision, where the trial was set to take place within 3 months of the motion date. She noted that COVID-19 related considerations on the administration of justice was not a key issue in the case at bar and that certain admissions had been made by the responding party in the Lightfoot motion that were not in play here.
This decision provides some clarity with respect to the transition provision for jury notices delivered prior to January 1, 2020 and the current Rule 76.