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November 26, 2014

Court of Appeal Upholds $1.1 Million Jury Award

The Court of Appeal has upheld a $1.1 million damages award in a product liability case heard by a jury.

In Stilwell v. World Kitchen, 2014 ONCA 770 (C.A.), the plaintiff injured his hand when a glass pot broke while he was cleaning it.  The jury found the defendant 75% at fault and the plaintiff 25%.  Particulars of negligence included not identifying when the customer should contact the manufacturer and the warning on the box being inadequate. The jury assessed damages at $1,132,850 including $25,000 in aggravated damages.

The Court of Appeal upheld the award except for the aggravated damages.  It held that the standard of review of a jury verdict is "exceptionally high" and a jury's verdict should only be set aside where it is so plainly unreasonable and unjust that no jury reviewing the evidence as a whole and acting judicially could have arrived at the verdict.  Additionally, a jury's verdict is entitled to a fair and liberal interpretation in light of the evidence and the circumstances.  In the circumstances, there was an evidentiary basis for the jury's conclusion.

The aggravated damages award was set aside as the judge failed to advise the jury that, in order to award such damages, they had to be satisfied that any increased injury to the plaintiff had to be a result of particularly reprehensible conduct by the defendant.

This case is a good example of the high threshold a party faces in attempting to overturn a jury verdict.

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