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Jury fees for civil trials in British Columbia

Introduction

Juries have had a long history in the context of common law civil cases. Up until 1854, all common law civil cases were tried by a jury. However, gradually the proportion has decreased and indeed in 1966 the English Court of Appeal decided that civil juries would no longer try personal injury cases. 
 
No such limitations have been imposed in British Columbia and so there is still a common law right to a jury trial for all types of civil actions. However, various rules of court and judicial decisions have restricted the use of juries in civil trials. One of the ways in which the use of civil juries has been restricted is by the significant fees that the parties are required to pay if they opt for a jury trial. The following is a brief overview of the costs associated with using a jury in a civil trial in British Columbia. 
 
Who Pays?
If a party requires a jury in a civil trial then that party must deposit the necessary funds with the sheriff. This is set out in s. 19 of the Jury Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 242 [Jury Act]:
 
Payment of jury fees in civil cases
19(1)  The fees to jurors in civil cases must be paid out of the sums deposited with the sheriff for jury fees by the party requesting the jury.
 
Individual Juror Fees
The Jury Act provides that jurors must be paid a fee and an amount for expenses by the party that requires the jury:
  
Jurors' fees
24  (1)  A person sitting as a juror at a trial is entitled to be paid
(a) an allowance for necessary and reasonable expenses, and
(b) a prescribed fee for each day that the person is required to attend at a sitting or a trial.
(2)  A person serving on a jury panel but not selected to sit as a juror is entitled to receive
(a) an allowance for necessary and reasonable expenses, and
(b) a prescribed fee for each day that the person is required to attend at a sitting.
Power to make regulations
34  …
(2)  Without limiting subsection (1), the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations as follows:
(a) respecting the allowances and fees, if any, payable under section 24;
(3)  A regulation under subsection (2) (a) may
(a) provide for different allowances and fees for different classes of persons, or
(b) provide that no allowance or fee is payable to a class of persons.
 
The Jury Regulation, B.C. Reg 282/95 [Jury Regulations] sets out the following fees that jurors are entitled to over the course of a civil jury trial:
 
1 Subject to section 3(3), a person is entitled to receive the following fee for each day that he or she is required to attend at a sitting or trial:
(a) $20 a day for each of the first 10 days of the trial;
(b) $60 a day for the 11th to the 49th days of the trial;
(c) $100 a day for the 50th and each succeeding day of the trial.
3 (1) A person referred to in section 1 is, subject to subsections (2) and (3), entitled to be reimbursed for necessary and reasonable travelling, lodging and other expenses incurred by the person as a result of sitting as a juror.
(2) The expenses to which a person is entitled under subsection (1) must be ascertained and approved by the sheriff who may, for that purpose, require the person to provide a declaration as to those expenses.
(3)  A regulation under subsection (2) (a) may
(a) provide for different allowances and fees for different classes of persons, or
(b) provide that no allowance or fee is payable to a class of persons.
 
Additional Fees
In addition to the individual juror fees set out in the Jury Regulations, the party that requires the jury must pay additional amounts to the sheriff. These additional amounts are specified by s. 17 of the Jury Act:
 
Payments to be made by party requiring jury
17  (1)  A party requiring a jury must, before the party is entitled to have the jury summoned, pay to the sheriff
(a) a sum sufficient to pay for the jury and jury process, and
(b) any additional fees prescribed by this Act or the Rules of Court for expenses of a jury and attendance of the sheriff or sheriff's officers.
(2)  Before the opening of court on each day of the trial after the days paid for under subsection (1), the party requiring the jury must pay to the sheriff, for each additional day, a sum sufficient to pay the fees referred to in subsection (1).
(3)  The sums paid under this section are costs in the cause, unless the judge orders otherwise.
 
The additional expenses that must be paid to the sheriff include the following amounts:
 
  • Mandatory $10 per day per jury member for expenses (to cover personal expenses such as parking for the jury member - this money is then added on to the daily amount that the jury member receives).
  • Day 1: $1500 (must be paid to sheriff 30 days prior to trial, sheriffs will not commence the summoning of jurors until this money has been received).
  • Days 2 – 10: $800 per day
  • Days 11 – 49: $900 per day
  • Days 50+: $1200 per day
With the exception of the mandatory $10 per juror expense, these expenses are apparently to cover the additional cost that the sheriff must bare as a result of having to manage a jury. 
 
Summary
In summary, the party that requires the jury has two primary obligations with respect to the fees and expenses of conducting a jury trial. 
 
First, the party must pay each jury member a per diemamount depending on the length of the trial. This amount includes a fee as set by the regulations, a mandatory $10 expense, and any other amount for travelling, lodging, and other expenses that are considered necessary and reasonable and incurred by the person as a result of sitting as a juror. 
 
Second, an amount to deal with the additional expense that a jury trial imposes on the judicial system e.g. additional sheriff costs. This is a per diem amount that is separate from the funds that are used to pay the individual jurors. 
The table below sets out the approximate costs for civil jury trials of various lengths. The calculations done in preparing the table assumed no additional amounts for travelling, lodging, and other expenses that are considered necessary and reasonable i.e. the amounts in the table are absolute minimums.
 
Days
$
1
1600
10
11000
20
26000
50
70000
100
174000
 
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