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Double Costs Awarded After Trial Judgement Nearly Doubles Plaintiff Formal Offer

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff double costs after obtaining judgement nearly doubling her pre trial formal settlement offer.

In the recent case (Risling v. Riches-Glazema) the Plaintiff was inured in a motor vehicle collision and prior to trial made a formal settlement offer of $315,000.  The Defendants rejected the offer and proceeded to trial where damages of $622,500 were awarded.  The Plaintiff sought and was granted post offer double costs.  In agreeing these were warranted Mr. Justice Affleck provided the following reasons:

[7]             In my view:

a)              The plaintiff’s case was well known to the defendants at the time of the offer. The plaintiff had been examined for discovery on two occasions; had attended two medical examinations at the request of the defendants, and a mediation had taken place in June 2016;

b)              the offer was made one week before the trial began which gave the defendants a full opportunity to consider it;

c)               the offer had a relationship to the claim and could not be characterized as a “nuisance offer”; and

d)              the offer was expressed in plain language and thus easily evaluated.

[8]             The final judgment of the court greatly exceeded the offer. The plaintiff submits her offer was a true attempt to reach a reasonable compromise of the claim and that the rationale for the double cost rule is to encourage parties to settle by taking a realistic view of the probable outcome of a trial. The plaintiff submits that rationale would be thwarted if in the present circumstances she is not entitled to double costs.

[10]         The defendants submit their limited understanding of the case made it difficult to quantify the claim and that, while the rationale for the rule for double costs is acknowledged, the defendants ought not to have been deterred from defending the claim for fear of a “punishing costs award”. Currie v. McKinnon, 2012 BCSC 1165 is relied on in support of that argument.

[11]         The defendants also submit that “no rationale for the offer was provided” in the plaintiff’s letter of August 15, 2016.

[12]         I do not agree that no rationale was provided. The plaintiff described the heads of damages she would advance at the trial and advised that the offer took into account “Part 7 Benefits paid or payable pursuant to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act”. Furthermore, the defendants had an opportunity on the mediation to canvas fully with the plaintiff’s legal advisers the extent of the plaintiff’s claim and the evidence at trial which would be advanced to support the claim.

[13]         I am also mindful that in Hartshorne the Court of Appeal expressed the view that the list of factors described in para. 27 of its reasons need not be relevant in every case.

[14]         Currie v. McKinnon does not help the defendants on this application. That case involved a personal injury claim with an award of damages which fell within the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court. Double costs were not awarded. In short Currie v. McKinnon is distinguishable on its facts from the matter before me to such an extent that it cannot usefully be called in aid of the defendants’ argument.

[15]         The plaintiff is entitled to the costs of this action including double costs from the date of the offer.

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