A Balanced Costs Award Following Jury Trial
In an illustration that not all trial ‘losses’ trigger catastrophic costs consequences, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering balanced costs consequences.
In this week’s case (Desharnais v. Parkhurst) the Plaintiff was involved in two vehicle collisions. Prior to trial the Defendants provided two formal offers, the first at $50,000 the second at $75,000. The Plaintiff, who was seeking in excess of $1 million rejected both offers and proeeded to trial. Following a thirteen day jury trial the Plaintiff’s damages were ultimately assessed at $30,100.
Both parties had medical evidence to justify their respective positions, however, the Court noted, some of the opinions of the Plaintiff’s experts were “highly suspect”.
The Defendants sought substantial costs having bested their formal settlement offers. The Court noted a more appropriate result would be to award the Plaintiff costs up to the date of the second formal offer and to have the parties bear their own costs thereafter. While such an order still has significant financial consequences for the Plaintiff it is far less sever than ordering payment of the Defendant’s costs. In reaching this decision Mr.Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:
 On the whole, I do not consider either the First or the Second Offer as having reflected, objectively speaking, a genuine attempt at compromise. I find them to hae been more reflective of what the Applicants could reasonably have hoped to achieve if all or substantially all of the issues were resolved in their favour. I am not dissuaded from taking this view by the fact that the jury awarded even a lesser amount; I do not think it is unfair to counsel or to the jury for me to say that the jury’s decision was considerably less than what reasonably prudent counsel would have regarded as a “win” for the defence. I cannot find that either offer ought reasonably to have been accepted by the plaintiff.
 As Goepel J. stated in Ward, that is the beginning, not the end of the analysis. The most basic principle underpinning the Rules relating to costs is that costs of a proceeding are to be awarded to the successful party (R. 14-1(9)). This expectation is intended to promote sensible conduct throughout court proceeding; it exists notwithstanding the broad judicial discretion to depart from the principle, which is generously built into the Rules.
 In this case, the jury found that the plaintiff had successfully proven some damage. But for the offers to settle, he would be entitled to his costs. Having regard to the factors set out in Rule 9-1(6), including giving some weight to the plaintiff’s financial circumstances, I do not find that the offers were so substantial that the Applicants ought to be entitled to any indemnification against their own costs. The plaintiff’s position was not completely lacking in merit. It was not frivolous. However, the fact that the settlement offers exceeded the judgment amount cannot be ignored. The Applicants were forced to incur the expense of a trial which they were willing to avoid by paying the plaintiff a not insubstantial sum, a sum which ended up being considerably greater than the damages the plaintiff was judged to be entitled to. It would be unfair to require the Applicants to indemnify the plaintiff for the costs of advancing a claim that was ultimately judged to be greatly overvalued.
 I find that the plaintiff is entitled to his costs up to the date of delivery of the Second Offer. The parties will bear their own costs thereafter.