Access to Discovery and Summary Trial "Sufficient Reason" to Sue in Supreme Court


As previously discussed, a litigant who receives less than $25,000 in damages following a Supreme Court trial is dis-entitled to costs unless they have ‘sufficient reason’ to sue in the Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were released today canvassing this area of law.
In today’s case (Mehta v. Douglas) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  He sued and following trial was awarded just over $18,000 in damages.  ICBC argued the Plaintiff should not be awarded costs because he did not have sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Harris disagreed and found that access to examinations for discovery and summary trials were were sufficient for commencing the lawsuit in the Supreme Court.  In awarding the Plaintiff costs the Court provided the following reasons:

[9] I accept the submissions of the plaintiff. In my view, the plaintiff required counsel to present her case. It would be unjust to deny her costs that would permit her partially to defray the expense of retaining counsel. Although it would have been difficult to predict at the outset whether this matter would prove to be suitable for summary determination, the availability of examinations for discovery and the possibility of summary trial are both factors that in the circumstances of this case are sufficient to justify starting the action in this court. The availability of these procedures and their potential to promote a proportionate and efficient use of resources is something that would be known at the outset. In my view, it would be unjust to deprive the plaintiff of costs in circumstances where knowing of those procedures she has subsequently used them efficiently.

[10] Although the plaintiff did not initially plead the injuries that ultimately formed the primary basis of the summary trial, I accept that it is appropriate to be cautious in assessing what could reasonably be predicted as the quantum for a damages claim when the action is started, particularly in the case of an infant. While on the facts that were known concerning the minor nature of the plaintiff’s soft tissue injuries and the speed with which they had resolved, it would have been unlikely that the award would exceed the small claims jurisdiction, but the exact value of the claim nevertheless could not be predicted accurately. Given the uncertainties facing the plaintiff at the time she started the action, it was not unreasonable to start it in this court.

[11] Taking all of these factors into account, I am of the view that the plaintiff had sufficient reason to start this action in this court and accordingly she is entitled to her costs in accordance with Schedule B.

bc injury law, costs, Mehta v. Douglas, Mr. Justice Harris, RUle 14, Rule 14-1, Rule 14-1(10)

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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