Threshold Ruling Does Not Imply Causal Connection

The Court of Appeal has just released an important decision that will be of interest to those handling MVA claims. In Igbokwe v. Price, the court ruled that the trial judge’s finding, that the plaintiff’s injuries met the Insurance Act threshold, was not a finding that the accident had caused the injuries.

You may recall that this is a question that we have wondered about in previous editions of the CW Update.

The case was tried by a judge and jury. The jury awarded non-pecuniary damages of $5,000 and $25,000 for past income loss.

While the jury was deliberating, the trial judge ruled on a threshold motion. He held that the plaintiff had suffered a “permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function”.

On the appeal, counsel for the plaintiff argued that, in making his threshold ruling, the trial judge had had to determine whether the plaintiff’s injuries had been caused by the MVA. The plaintiff contended that once the judge had done so, the jury “was bound to conclude that the plaintiff’s injuries were indeed materially caused by the accident”.

The Court of Appeal rejected this submission. Its reasons (on this issue) were brief. It said:

[W]e are not satisfied that the trial judge in making a threshold determination as required by s. 267.5(15) makes a finding of fact on the question of causation. Furthermore, assuming that the trial judge does make such a finding it is not binding on the jury.

So, this decision answers the question that we have raised previously: what is the relationship between the trial judge’s finding that an injury meets the threshold and a jury’s assessment of damages consequent upon that injury? As of today, the answer appears to be that there is no link between the two.

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