Divisional Court Rules Polygraph Evidence Inadmissible in Civil Suit

In Petti v. George Coppel Jewellers Ltd., Mr. Justice Joseph W. Quinn, sitting as a judge of the Divisional Court, ordered a new trial of a Small Claims Court action, where the Deputy Judge had decided the case, in part, by relying on the results of polygraph or “lie-detector” testing of both parties.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant had stolen a diamond ring that he had left for a valuation. He sued for damages. Both parties agreed to submit to polygraph testing. At trial, the Deputy Judge allowed the two polygraph reports to be introduced into evidence, without oral testimony from the operators of the testing equipment.

Justice Quinn reviewed the law. He said that evidence that a person has offered to submit to polygraph testing can be admissible, but that was a neutral factor here, since both parties had made such an offer. Secondly, the questions and answers from the testing can be admissible, if they constitute admissions against interest.┬áBut the test results themselves are not admissible because they usurp the jurisdiction of the trier of fact. As His Honour said, “the court should not delegate its jurisdiction, even on consent”. Hence, a new trial was ordered.

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