Canada: A Shattering Decision: Ontario Court Of Appeal Affirms Deference To Civil Jury’s Award

Last Updated: December 9 2014
Article by Stefanie Holland

A jury trial? No thank you. The recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Stilwell v. World Kitchen Inc.1 is a good example of why product liability claims can be difficult to litigate when the decision maker is six just men (or, more appropriately, people). This proceeding arose out of injuries suffered by the plaintiff, Lanny Stilwell, when he was washing a Dutch oven in a sink and it shattered in his hands. As a result, he required numerous surgeries and was no longer able to work after the incident. His wife was also required to quit her job in order to take care of him. Mr. Stilwell commenced a claim for a breach of warranty and negligence against World Kitchen in 2002 and Corning was added as a defendant in 2008.

As discussed below, at trial, the juries' made numerous problematic and questionable findings that the Court declined to overturn due to the high standard of review for civil jury verdicts and the fact that a juries' verdict is entitled to a fair and liberal interpretation.

The Jury Verdict

At trial, the jury found the defendants 75% liable for not properly warning Mr. Stilwell about the potential dangers associated with the Dutch oven, while Mr. Stilwell was found to be 25% contributorily negligent. The jury awarded him $1,132,850 in damages, $25,000 of which was attributed to aggravated damages. Mr. Stilwell's wife was awarded $25,000 for loss of care, guidance and companionship.

The Appeal

The defendants appealed the trial verdict, raising the following three issues:

1. Did the trial judge err in finding that the Respondents' claim was not statute barred?

Corning argued that the trial judge erred in ruling that the action was not statute barred. The limitations defence focuses on when Mr. Stilwell knew that Corning was a potential defendant and whether the case was commenced within the six-year limitation period.

The Court advised that the trial judge made no palpable and overriding error and that there was no basis to interfere with that ruling regarding the limitation period. The Court observed that the trial judge found a "good deal of support for the plaintiffs' position that, in these early stages of the investigation and litigation, the available information pointed to World Kitchen as the entity likely to bear responsibility, if any, for the Visions cookware."

2.  Should the jury's liability finding be set aside?

On the second issue, the defendants took the position that the verdict should be set aside because there was no evidence to support that any alleged failure to warn caused, or contributed to, the incident. They further argued that since the jury did not find any negligence in the design or manufacture of the Dutch oven and there was no evidence of scratches, a warning to discontinue use of the oven if it was scratched would have had no effect. In other words, a warning would not have changed Mr. Stilwell's conduct.

The Court gave regard to two long-standing legal principles in respect of civil jury trials:

  1. The standard of review of civil jury verdicts is exceptionally high. /em>They should only be interfered with when "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," and
  2. A jury's verdict is entitled to a fair and liberal interpretation in light of the evidence and of the circumstances. In the Court's view, there was an evidentiary basis for the conclusion reached by the jury. Justice Hourigan stated that "while a different jury, or a judge sitting alone, may have drawn different inferences and reached different conclusions, I am not satisfied that the verdict is plainly unreasonable and unjust."

3.  Should the jury's award of aggravated damages be set aside?

On the final ground of appeal, both parties were in agreement that the trial judge erred in his charge to the jury on the issue of aggravated damages. Specifically, Mr. Stilwell took the position that the instruction had the effect of the jury increasing its award and as such, the $25,000 awarded for aggravated damages should be subsumed into the general damages. The Court rejected this submission on the basis that it was entirely speculative to assume that had they been properly instructed, the jury would have increased the general damages by $25,000.

Key Take Away Principle

So what does all of this mean? This case provides a cautionary tale to manufacturers in that they must take appropriate measures to fulfill their duty to warn consumers of any potential defects in their products, even in situations where there is no direct evidence demonstrating that the warning would impact consumer behaviour.

But what might be even more significant is that in an age where civil jury trials are few and far between, this is a reminder of the deference that is given to a civil jury's findings of liability and damages. Civil juries are comprised of laypeople. They are not trained in the law, and are certainly not lawyers. Unless a jury is improperly instructed, it will be extremely difficult to overturn its verdict, especially in light of the exceptionally high standard of review. It is the risk that parties take when settlement fails and they proceed to trial. Both lawyers and their clients ought to be keep this in mind when considering litigation strategy and the benefits of early resolution.


1 2014 ONCA 770.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.