More on BC Supreme Court Trials and Costs

I’ve previously posted that when a Plaintiff in a BC Supreme Court Lawsuit is awarded damages in the Small Claims Court Jurisdiction ($25,000 or less) the Plaintiff is usually not permitted to court ‘costs’.
This is so because Rule 57(10) of the Supreme Court Rules holds that:
A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there is sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this section and the issue of when there is ‘sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court.’
In today’s case (Munro v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was awarded just over $12,000 for injuries sustained in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  The Defendant was apparently insured by ICBC and subject to ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Defence.
The Plaintiff brought application seeking court ‘costs’.  He argued as follows:

[7]             The plaintiff says that “sufficient reason” is to be considered as at the time of commencement of proceedings: Riemann v. Aziz [2009] BCCA 448.

[8]             He says that at the date of commencement of the action, he had in hand the reports of two medical experts.  The conclusion arising from those is that it was a moderate/severe whiplash injury impacting on his future vocational capabilities, indicating a loss of capacity claim.

[9]             In these circumstances, counsel for the plaintiff contends there was good reason to bring his action in this court as opposed to the Small Claims division of the Provincial Court.

The defence lawyer argued that the Plaintiff should be deprived of ‘costs’ because the Plaintiff only recovered half of what could have been awarded in Small Claims Court therefore the Plaintiff should have started the lawsuit there.
In accepting the Plaintiff’s position Mr. Justice Williams applied the law as follows:

[22]         In order to determine the merit of the plaintiff’s claim for costs, it is necessary to examine whether he has shown that there was sufficient reason to have justified the decision to commence the proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[23]         Both parties accept that to be the correct analysis.  As well, both agree that the point in time at which the assessment is to be made is when the action in initiated.

[24]         In this case, plaintiff’s counsel had in hand the reports of two medical practitioners when he commenced the proceeding.  The report of Dr. Paterson, a treating chiropractor, concluded that the plaintiff’s symptoms of neck pain and stiffness, headaches, left shoulder pain and weakness are the result of a Grade III whiplash (moderate/severe) that he sustained in his July 6, 2006 motor vehicle accident. …

[25] There was also a medical-legal opinion from Dr. Condon….

26] Based on those opinions, it was not unreasonable for the plaintiff’s counsel to conclude that the action should be commenced in the Supreme Court.  The evidence indicated the likelihood of a viable claim for loss of future earning capacity as well as a not-insignificant claim for general damages.  Taking that into account, I am not prepared to find that his decision to bring the claim as he did was improper:  he had sufficient reason to proceed as he did when the writ was filed….

32] In the result, there is no basis to find that he deliberately misrepresented his situation to the doctors.  I stand by my conclusion that there was sufficient reason for bringing this proceeding in the Supreme Court, and reject the argument that he should be disentitled to the benefit of that finding because of his own conduct.

On another note, I posted yesterday about the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules which come into force next year.   I have referenced these and it appears that the law as set out in Rule 57(10) of the current rules remains in place in the New Rules.  The relevant provision is set out in Rule 14-1(10) of the new Civil Rules.  The language there is identical to the current Rule 57(10) so precedents such as this case should remain good law after the new rules take effect.

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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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