The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled that a civil suit against defendants CIBC Wood Gundy, Robert Tricky and Geraldine Mannings is too complex for a jury and must be heard by a judge alone.
The suit includes allegations that deal with fiduciary duty, know-your-client rules and duties of care in respect of trading activity between 2001 and 2013, among other issues. (In 2015, Mannings reached a settlement with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) dealing with several client accounts. The settlement included sanctions and she is no longer an advisor).
The late November decision rendered in Nelson, B.C., by Justice Mark McEwan found in favour of the defendants on the jury question. None of the many and complex allegations have been proven, and all have been denied by the defendants.
In opposing trial by jury, CIBC Wood Gundy argued, among other things, that the issues would be too complex for a jury, including the review of voluminous and complex documents and the provisions of the B.C. Securities Act, as well as securities rules of IIROC. In deciding that the case should be heard by a judge alone, McEwan stated: “[The case] may appear manageable to counsel for the plaintiff, but it will be defended vigorously and I think it will be complex in ways that we do not envision. Though I am reluctant to take it away from a jury, I think it far more likely than not that it will be too complex for a jury to conveniently handle.”
In its ruling, the court notes that the issues set out in the pleadings “appear to be intricate and complex”; that there will have to be distinctions made between suitable investments and what not and whether there was contributory negligence; and, that experts may raise a number of distinct legal issues.
“It is not enough for a jury to be able to understand the evidence, which is difficult on its own, but the jury must be able to retain its understanding and then during a time constrained deliberation period analyze the evidence and decide the difficult questions in this case,” it says.
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