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Girao v. Cunningham, 2020 ONCA 260 DATE: 20200421 DOCKET: C63778 https://www.ontariocourts.ca/decisions/2020/2020ONCA0260.htm
(1) Issue One: The “Joint Trial Brief”
 On the eve of trial, the defence dropped a massive and selectively redacted 16 volume “Joint Trial Brief” on the appellant, who has substantial difficulty with the English language, something of which the defence was well aware. The content of the Brief can be summarized as falling into several categories: medical records, notes, and reports; employment, educational, and tax records; and documents relating to the collision and insurance claims. The Brief became the basis of the trial record in an unfair way that was inconsistent with the trial practice directions of this court.
(a) The Governing Principles
 It is clear law that: “The goal of a trial judge in supervising the assembly of a trial record is completeness and accuracy, so that the panel of this court sitting on the appeal can discern without difficulty exactly what was before [the trial judge] at any moment in the course of the trial”: 1162740 Ontario Ltd. v. Pingue, 2017 ONCA 52, 135 O.R. (3d) 792, at para. 14. This court has given instructions on the preparation and use of document briefs, for example, in Iannarella v. Corbett, 2015 ONCA 110, 124 O.R. (3d) 523, at paras. 127-128, and in Pingue, at paras. 39-40.
 Any document introduced by any party that does not become a numbered exhibit should become a lettered exhibit. The important distinction between numbered exhibits and lettered exhibits is that, subject to the trial judge’s discretion, lettered exhibits do not go in with the jury during its deliberations, but numbered exhibits do: Pingue, at para. 17.
 As a more general observation, it is customary for experts to prepare reports, which counsel provides to the parties and to the judge. The admissible evidence of the expert is normally understood to be the oral evidence, particularly in jury trials. However, the best practice in jury trials is to make expert reports lettered exhibits in order to preserve the integrity of the trial record for the purpose of an appeal: Pingue, at para. 21.
 The problem in this case with the trial record went further. It is quite usual in civil actions for counsel to prepare an agreed trial document brief containing documents that are admitted as authentic and admissible. See J. Kenneth McEwan, Sopinka on the Trial of an Action, 3rd ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2016) at pp. 66-72. In Blake v. Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company, 2015 ONCA 165, 331 O.A.C. 48, at para. 54, Brown J.A. emphasized the necessity of ensuring that the record reflects the document’s intended use:
When a document brief is tendered at trial, the record should reflect clearly the use the parties may make of it. Such use may range from the binder’s acting merely as a convenient repository of documents, each of which must be proved in the ordinary way, through an agreement about the authenticity of the documents, all the way to an agreement that the documents can be taken as proof of the truth of their contents. Absent an agreement by the parties on the permitted use of a document brief, the trial judge should make an early ruling about its use.
 Counsel typically agree on a list of documents and one party attends to the brief’s preparation. As observed in Iannarella, at para. 128: “It is regrettably not unusual, however, for counsel to differ on the precise basis on which a document in the brief is being tendered or whether it was to have been included, as the implications materialize in the course of the trial.” Pingue stated, at para. 40:
[I]t is necessary for counsel to clarify to the court and to each other the extent to which the authenticity of each document in the proffered document brief is accepted…. If, as is too often the case, counsel has not done so, it is the trial judge’s responsibility to get the requisite clarity when the documents are made exhibits, especially concerning a document’s hearsay content.
 This discipline of judicial oversight applies even more forcefully where one party is self-represented and the opposing lawyer prepares the brief, and in a jury trial where the brief goes into the jury room.
(b) The Principles Applied
 The Joint Document Brief was prepared by the defence without input from the appellant, despite the misleading label: “Joint”. There is no good explanation for its late delivery, which put the appellant at a disadvantage leaving her to run from behind through the course of the trial.
 The volumes in the Joint Document Brief were made numbered exhibits. The trial judge’s approach was to simply accept all the volumes. He said, when he marked vol. 16 as exhibit one:
[M]y assumption is for the most part, the documents are going to be admissible. And, rather than marking them first for identification and changing it, I thought I would do it the other way around.
It does not appear from the record that the trial judge later excluded any documents from the Brief tendered by the defence.
 Dr. Becker’s report supporting the appellant’s account of her injury was initially made a numbered exhibit. It was later struck, but no copy was then filed as a lettered exhibit. This failure obliged the appellant to add it as well as some other reports to the appeal book in order to ensure that they were available to this court on the appeal.
 Some of the medical reports favouring the appellant’s claim in the statutory accident benefits file were included in the Joint Document Brief but they were redacted by the defence in order to excise any opinion evidence favourable to Ms. Girao.
 I would not consider the flaws in the management of the trial record to be fatal to trial fairness in this case, but they unfairly enabled the defence’s strategy of keeping expert evidence favourable to the appellant from the jury and from the trial record.
 In my view, counsel and the court should have addressed the following questions, which arise in every case, in considering how the documents in the joint book of documents are to be treated for trial purposes:
1. Are the documents, if they are not originals, admitted to be true copies of the originals? Are they admissible without proof of the original documents?
2. Is it to be taken that all correspondence and other documents in the document book are admitted to have been prepared, sent and received on or about the dates set out in the documents, unless otherwise shown in evidence at the trial?
3. Is the content of a document admitted for the truth of its contents, or must the truth of the contents be separately established in the evidence at trial?
4. Are the parties able to introduce into evidence additional documents not mentioned in the document book?
5. Are there any documents in the joint book that a party wishes to treat as exceptions to the general agreement on the treatment of the documents in the document book?
6. Does any party object to a document in the document book, if it has not been prepared jointly?
 It would be preferable if a written agreement between counsel addressing these matters were attached to the book of documents in all civil cases. In addition, it would be preferable if the trial judge and counsel went through the agreement line by line on the record to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.
 In my view, none of these issues or questions are novel. The answers to these questions are not implicit in the filing of a joint document book and must be expressly addressed on the record or by written agreement. The problem frequently comes because the parties have not turned their minds to the issues in sufficient detail before the document book is tendered as an exhibit. This must change as a matter of ordinary civil trial practice. Had the trial judge taken himself, counsel and Ms. Girao through this list of questions relating to the document book, some of the problems identified in these reasons could have been avoided.
 Given the pleadings and the material facts at issue, there was minimal, if any, probative value in this mocking and belittling cross-examination on the benefits settlement. It was highly prejudicial to Ms. Girao, having the perverse effect identified in Ismail of using “collateral entitlements premised on disability to support arguments of ability”. The trial judge did nothing.
 In my view the trial was unfair to Ms. Girao for all of these reasons, quite apart from my earlier conclusion that the combined errors in addressing the medical evidence alone are a sufficient basis upon which to allow the appeal.
(4) Issue Four: The role of the trial judge and counsel where one party is self-represented
 The overarching principle is that the trial judge is responsible for controlling proceedings to ensure trial fairness. Trials involving self-represented litigants can be especially challenging.
(a) The Governing Principles
 Numerous trial fairness concerns arise for self-represented litigants. In Pintea v. Johns, 2017 SCC 23,  1 S.C.R. 470, at para. 4, the Supreme Court endorsed the Statement of Principles on Self-represented Litigants and Accused Persons (2006) issued by the Canadian Judicial Council. The Statement provides guidance to the judiciary on how to ensure litigants “understand and meaningfully present their case, regardless of representation”: at p. 2. The enumerated principles appear under the following headings: promoting rights of access, promoting equal justice, and responsibilities of the participants in the justice system. The Statement sets out directions for the judiciary, court administrators, self-represented persons, and members of the bar. The section on promoting equal justice is particularly relevant. It states:
1. Judges and court administrators should do whatever is possible to provide a fair and impartial process and prevent an unfair disadvantage to self-represented persons.
2. Self-represented persons should not be denied relief on the basis of a minor or easily rectified deficiency in their case.
3. Where appropriate, a judge should consider engaging in such case management activities as are required to protect the rights and interests of self-represented persons. Such case management should begin as early in the court process as possible.
4. When one or both parties are proceeding without representation, non-prejudicial and engaged case and courtroom management may be needed to protect the litigants’ equal right to be heard. Depending on the circumstances and nature of the case, the presiding judge may:
a. explain the process;
b. inquire whether both parties understand the process and the procedure;
c. make referrals to agencies able to assist the litigant in the preparation of the case;
d. provide information about the law and evidentiary requirements;
e. modify the traditional order of taking evidence; and
f. question witnesses.
 In my view, the self-represented status of a litigant is a factor that might unduly complicate or lengthen the trial, leading the trial judge to conclude that prudence suggests the jury be discharged. As noted by Epstein J.A. in Kempf, “in many cases the ‘wait and see’ approach is the most prudent course to follow”: at para. 43 (9). As the trial unfolds, the trial judge becomes better able to assess the capacity of the self-represented party to present the case, whether as a plaintiff or a defendant. While remaining mindful of the substantive but not absolute right to a trial by jury, the trial judge then is positioned to determine whether justice to the parties would be better served by dismissing or retaining the jury.
 While I recognize that the right to a jury trial in a civil action has been recognized as fundamental, it is not absolute and must sometimes yield to practicality. I should not be understood as stating that the presence of a self-represented litigant should invariably lead to the dismissal of a civil jury. In many if not most cases, a trial judge should be able to fairly manage a civil jury trial with a self-represented litigant, with the willing assistance of counsel acting in the best traditions of officers of the court.
 In my view, the trial judge erred in failing to revisit his decision not to strike the jury.
(6) The Threshold Decision
 At trial, the appellant functioned as a legally-untrained, self-represented, non-English speaking litigant in testifying, examining and cross-examining through a Spanish interpreter. She was faced with a phalanx of defence counsel, two representing Ms. Cunningham, and two representing Allstate Insurance Company of Canada. The trial was 20 days long, involved many witnesses, and considered complex medical evidence.
 Ms. Girao was entitled to but did not get the active assistance of the trial judge whose responsibility it was to ensure the fairness of the proceeding. As a self-represented litigant, she was also entitled to, but did not get, basic fairness from trial defence counsel as officers of the court. The trial judge was also entitled to seek and to be provided with the assistance of counsel as officers of the court, in the ways discussed above. This did not happen.
 I would allow the appellant’s appeal, set aside the judgment and orders, and order a new trial. I would award the costs of this appeal and of the trial to the appellant, including her disbursements. If the parties cannot agree on the quantum the appellant may file a written submission no more than five pages in length, in addition to receipts for disbursements, within 10 days of the date of this decision, and the respondent may respond within an additional 10 days.
For more on this story see: https://www.canlii.org/en/#search/text=Yolanda%20Girao&resultIndex=2
 Neither counsel nor the court will gown for the hearing. Instead, business attire is required for anyone with a speaking role in the hearing. All parties must ensure that they participate in the videoconference from appropriate surroundings and that they (and the Court) will not be interrupted or disturbed during the hearing.