ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

"Genuine Sympathy" Not Enough to Move Away From Loser Pays Consequences

As previously discussed, a Plaintiff’s financial circumstances is not relevant when assessing “loser pays” costs consequences following trial in the BC Supreme Court (subject to the different analysis that applies when pre-trial formal settlement offers have been made).  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.

In last week’s case (Staley v. Squirrel Systems of Canada Ltd.) the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for damages due to alleged wrongful dismissal.  The claim was dismissed at trial.  The Defendant applied for costs to be paid with the Plaintiff opposing arguing, in part, that his poor financial circumstances should preclude such a result.  Mr. Justice Williams disagreed and ordered that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[17] Regrettably, I find myself unable to accede to the plaintiff’s submissions. The Rule with respect to costs is quite fundamental. While there is some latitude for judicial discretion, the authorities make abundantly clear that the discretion must be exercised in a principled and, I would conclude, cautious manner. Deviation from the basic principle that a successful litigant shall recover must necessarily be carefully constrained…

[21] The third basis for his application is that he is unemployed and experiencing difficult financial circumstances.

[22] While no evidence is before the Court to establish precisely what his present situation is, I will accept that it is not good. I have genuine sympathy for this plaintiff. I am sure that the requirement to pay costs to the defendant will be a real burden for him in his circumstances.

[23] Indeed, I expect that it is frequently the case that there are substantial discrepancies between the means of parties to litigation. Unsuccessful litigants are not infrequently in difficult financial straits, and orders for costs can exacerbate that situation.

[24] However, I am unable to conclude that an order requiring him to pay the defendant’s costs, in accordance with the relevant tariff, $11,000, would be so “unfair and inappropriately punitive” to make the order sought. There are no special circumstances in this case which warrant an order for reduced costs or relieving the plaintiff from paying the defendant’s costs.

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