More on Rule 15 and Pre Trial Costs Assessments


Last year Master Baker released reasons for judgement assessing pre-trial settlement costs of a Rule 15 lawsuit at $6,500.  Today reasons for judgement were released upholding this analysis finding no error was made in such an assessment.
In today’s case (Gill v. Widjaja) Mr. Justice Harvey provided the following reasons upholding the Master’s decision:

[47] I turn now to the matter of the tariff fees allowed by Master Baker of the $6,500 in costs.

[48] Rule 15-1(15) reads:

(15) Unless the court otherwise orders or the parties consent, and subject to Rule 14-1(10), the amount of costs, exclusive of disbursements, to which a party to a fast track action is entitled is as follows:

(a)  if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is one day or less, $8,000;

(b) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is 2 days or less but more than one day, $9 500;

(c) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is more than 2 days, $11 000.

[49] The Rule, as written, gives the registrar wide discretion in determining the appropriate tariff amount.  Master Baker was aware of the steps taken in the litigation and the date of settlement relative to the trial date.

[50] Having regard to the aforementioned test that I must apply, I am not of the view that an error in principle has been demonstrated nor do I find that the master was clearly wrong in his determination that the appropriate cost of tariff amount was $6,500.

[51] The express purpose of Rule 15-1 is to streamline the process both for trial and, presumably, taxation of costs.  Parsing out the details in each action where the amounts do not apply is not, in my view, the proper course.  Indeed, were it, in this action there was a settlement conference which no doubt necessitated some significant preparation, much like trial preparation, and, as well, a trial management conference.  Each of those events resulted in discussions leading to the settlement of this matter.

[52] In those circumstances I find no error in principle such as to interfere with the finding of the master.

Disjunctive Nature of Rule 15 Confirmed by BC Supreme Court


Earlier this year Master Bouck found that Rule 15 applies to cases worth below $100,000 regardless of length of trial and conversely to cases worth more than $100,000 where the length of trial is three days or less.  This reasoning was confirmed in reasons for judgement released this week by Mr. Justice Grist.
In this week’s case (Sandhu v. Roy) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate motor vehicle collisions.  He sued for damages and both actions were set for hearing, by consent, at the same time.  ICBC unilaterally put the cases into Rule 15 and set a trial for three days.  The Plaintiff applied to remove the case from Rule 15 arguing the case did not meet with its requirements given the value of the claims and the length of trial necessary.
ICBC argued that liability was “not seriously in dispute” and the trial can be completed in three days.  Mr. Justice Grist found with liability denied in the pleadings the case was not suitable for fast track litigation and ordered the matter removed from Rule 15 (unless ICBC formally admitted liability within 14 days).  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons confirming the Disjunctive nature of the fast track Rule:

[12] The defendants’ point that the prerequisites for a Fast Track Notice are listed disjunctively is sound. In Hemani, Master Bouck recognized the disjunctive list of criteria in Rule 15-1(1), as allowing for a case requiring more than three days to be set on Fast Track, and held that an action will not be removed from Fast Track on an application under 15-1(6) for that reason alone. Rule 15-1, however, presents something of a conundrum on the question of removal of an action from Fast Track as a result of an estimated trial length beyond three days. If the action proceeds to a Trial Management Conference, Rule 15-1(14) applies:

If trial will require more than 3 days

(14)      If, as a result of the trial management conference in a fast track action, the trial management conference judge considers that the trial will likely require more than 3 days, the trial management conference judge

(a)        may adjourn the trial to a date to be fixed as if the action were not subject to this rule.

[13] In a case like this one, where only three days are set aside for trial and the circumstances indicate that significantly more days are required, should the matter proceed to a Trial Management Conference, the court would in most cases be forced to require a second trial date be set, and may often be called on to remove the action from the strictures of the Rule…

[16] I find merit in plaintiff’s application and would accede to the adjournment of the trial and removal of the action from the Fast Track Program. I consider, however, that the orders may not ultimately be necessary if liability for the two collisions were to be admitted. Defence counsel should be given the opportunity to re-assess his position once the effect of this decision is known. Accordingly, I will stipulate that the two orders will become effective should the liability issues not be settled within 14 days of these Reasons.

Plaintiff Awarded $9,500 Costs Despite $4,000 Damage Assessement


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with the “curious result” of costs recovery at over double the amount of assessed damages.
In last week’s case (Kargbo v. Chand) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC disputed both fault and injury.  At trial the Plaintiff’s claim was accepted and modest damages of $4,000 were awarded.  The Plaintiff sought her costs.  ICBC opposed arguing the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court.
Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that more than the value of an ICBC Claim can be considered in deciding whether there is sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Williams went on to canvass factors other than value and concluded that the Plaintiff was entitled to $9,500 in costs under Rule 15-1(15).  The Court provided the following reasons:

[9] The problem ultimately reduces to this: If the Court determines that the plaintiff had sufficient reason for commencing or proceeding in the Supreme Court, she should be entitled to recover costs in accordance with Rule 15-1(15). If the Court finds that there was not sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in this Court, then she is not entitled to recover her costs.

[10] In Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, the Court of Appeal clarified that the issue has to be analyzed as at the point in time that the plaintiff initiated the action; there is no ongoing obligation to assess the quantum of claim.

[11] I have been provided with a number of decisions where judges of this Court have assessed the circumstances of cases to decide whether or not an order for costs is warranted. Obviously, the plaintiff bears the onus of establishing that there was sufficient reason for filing in the Supreme Court. It is not simply a matter of assessing the anticipated value of the claim. A number of factors have been identified in the cases as being relevant to the issue. These include the following (the list is not intended to be exhaustive):

1.         the legal or factual complexity of the case;

2.         the need for discovery of documents and examinations for discovery;

3.         the need for a judgment enforceable outside of British Columbia;

4.         a bona fide preference for a jury trial;

5.         access to the summary trial procedure available in Supreme Court; and

6.         the need for the plaintiff to have legal counsel, in light of the defendant’s denial of liability, dispute as to causation, injury or loss and allegations of contributory negligence, pre-existing conditions, previous causes and a failure to mitigate.

[12] In the present case, liability was denied and in the circumstances could reasonably have been expected to represent a challenge to prove. As well, the issue of damages had the real potential of being a problem. The plaintiff had a history of prior accidents and had been hospitalized shortly after the accident in question for matters not related to the accident. She was also injured in another more serious accident some several months after the accident at bar. It was the sort of case that a self-represented plaintiff would find daunting no doubt.

[13] Taking those considerations into account, it is my view that this plaintiff had sufficient reason for bringing her proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[14] As a parenthetical observation, it is true that a party such as this plaintiff could elect to pursue the claim in the Provincial Court with legal counsel, although the prospect of incurring the expense to do so without any right to recover court costs is a legitimate factor to consider. As well, where the plaintiff elects to bring suit in the Supreme Court, she runs the real risk of an adverse costs outcome if the action is unsuccessful.

[15] In the circumstances, it is my view that the plaintiff should be entitled to costs in accordance with the Rules of Court. I recognize that might appear to produce a curious result in that the award of costs is substantially greater than the damages that she recovered. However, if the matter is considered fairly and objectively and the relevant rule applied, that result follows.

[16] There is no question that the policy which underpins Rule 14-1(1) is to encourage parties with claims of modest value to bring their action in the Provincial Court, and to provide for a penalty against one who does not. That is consistent with the concept of proportionality which is a foundational consideration of the Court’s Rules.

[17] The clear default position will be that, with respect to claims where the award is less than $25,000, the plaintiff will not be entitled to an award of costs. Nevertheless, there will be situations where there is sufficient reason to bring the action in the Supreme Court. It will be for the Court to examine the circumstances of each particular case to determine whether or not there is sufficient reason.

For more cases addressing sufficient reasons to sue in Supreme Court you can click here to access my archived posts on this topic.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Fibromyalgia; Rule 15 Soft Cap Exceeded

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for an aggravation of pre-existing fibromyalgia.
In this week’s case (Paradis v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted.  Despite expressing some “reservations in accepting the entirety of the evidence put forth in the plaintiff’s case” Mr. Justice Masuhara accepted that the collision caused an aggravation of pre-existing fibromyalgia which was on-going by the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 the Court provided the following reasons:
[73] Applying the principles of causation as set out in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333; Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458; and most recently in Farrant v. Laktin, 2011 BCCA 336, as well as recognizing the comment that courts should exercise caution when there is little objective evidence of continuing complaints of pain persisting beyond what the defence asserts is the normal recovery period, I find that the Accident aggravated Ms. Paradis’ condition of fibromyalgia.  My view is that Ms. Paradis’ pain is predominantly in the mild to moderate range (though it can increase) and relates to her lower back; that she suffered from back and neck pain as well as headaches prior to the Accident but not as great; that she is able to stand far longer than she says; that she has the capacity to lift more than she asserts; and can engage in more activities than the physical capacity concludes.  The plaintiff also has full range of motion at her neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, lower back, hips, knees, ankles and feet.  A significant part of her physical restrictions are not substantially related to aggravation from the Accident but rather to the unrepaired injury to her left knee, the osteoarthritis found in her knees, as well as her weight.  However, I find that she has suffered some loss of capacity…

[83] Ms. Paradis had a history of back, neck and knee pain, and headaches prior to the Accident.  Also, the medical evidence indicates that Ms. Paradis has full range of motion in all areas of her body, from her neck to her feet.

[84] The authorities referred to by the plaintiff in support of its position on quantum largely do not deal with persons with a pre-existing condition of pain comparable to the plaintiff.  The cases also deal with persons who enjoyed activities that were more significantly impacted by their injuries than in the instant case.  In my view, the injuries in the cases submitted by the defendant are somewhat more comparable to the plaintiff.  Also, I accept that Ms. Paradis’ level of pain and disability can be significantly controlled with proper management.  The defence’s position that some recognition for the plaintiff not taking reasonable steps to reduce her weight is addressed later under mitigation.

[85] In all of the circumstances, I assess general damages as $40,000.

This case also appears to be one of the first cases to be prosecuted under the Fast Track with damages exceeding the soft cap.  Despite the cap set out in Rule 15-1(1)(a), Rule 15-1(3) states that “nothing in this rule prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in a fast track action for an amount in excess of  $100,000“.  This week’s case was apparently prosecuted under the fast track (as is evidenced by the Court’s costs award set out in paragraph 119) and had global damages of $116,238 assessed.

Fast Track Proceedings Mandatory Either by Length of Trial "OR" Quantum

For the past year there has been some debate amongst BC lawyers about the circumstances triggering Rule 15.  Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, clarifying this debate.  In short the Court confirmed that where otherwise applicable, the fast track rule applies to cases worth below $100,000 regardless of length of trial and conversely to cases worth more than $100,000 where the length of trial is three days or less.
In today’s case (Hemani v. Hillard) the Plaintiff claimed damages for personal injury.  She sued pursuant to Rule 15.   She was seeking damages below $100,000 but the trial was expected to take 5 days.  The Defendant argued that in these circumstances fast track rule does not apply.  Master Bouck disagreed and provided the following helpful reasons:

[6] The plaintiff acknowledges that her claim is valued at $100,000 or less exclusive of interest and costs.

[7] The defendant submits that where the plaintiff estimates the trial will take more than three days, an action can no longer be continued in fast track….

[10] In contrast, the plaintiff points to the use of the word “or” (as opposed to “and”) under Rule 15-1(1) (a) through (d). The use of this disjunctive suggests that fast track can apply to a variety of scenarios. A party is not restricted to completing the action within three days; that is merely one criteria for conducting an action in fast track.

[11] The plaintiff further observes that under Rule 15-1(3), the court may award damages to a plaintiff for an amount in excess of $100,000 even though the action was commenced in fast track under the monetary criteria.

[12] The plaintiff accepts the risk that she may not recover costs for the additional two days of trial.

[13] While there may be no judicial consideration of this issue, there is a helpful analysis of Rule 15-1 in McLachlin & Taylor, British Columbia Practice (Third Edition), at pp. 15-1 to 15-3.

[14] The learned author states:

One could say that the 3-day trial limit is a condition subsequent to the continuing application of Rule 15-1, but the rules cited do not go that far. Put in other terms, it cannot be said that condition (c) is a true condition subsequent to the operation of Rule 15-1. Rather, if in the event it is not satisfied, that can result (depending on the stage of the proceeding when this is found to be the case) in the loss of a trial date or a denial of costs for the fourth and subsequent days of trial, but the action continues to be a fast track action until and unless the court, on its own motion or on the application of a party, so orders under Rule 15-1 (6).

[15] I agree with this analysis.

[16] There is no application before me to remove the action from fast track on any other grounds.

[17] Accordingly, as a matter of statutory interpretation, the plaintiff’s position on the issue is correct.

Court Holds Rule 15 Costs Cap Can Apply to Trials Prosecuted Outside of the Fast Track


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, addressing whether the Rule 15 Costs ‘cap‘ can apply to non-Rule 15 lawsuits that proceed to trial but result in judgement below $100,000.  In short the Court ruled that the cap should apply in these circumstances.
In last week’s case (Affleck v. Palmer) the Plaintiff sued the Defendants for damages.  The claim was not filed under the fast track provisions of Rule 15.  The case proceeded by way of summary trial under Rule 9-7 and was successful.  The judgement is unclear of the damages awarded but they were apparently over $25,000 under $100,000.  The summary trial lasted one day.
The Plaintiff brought an application for lump sum costs of $8,000 under Rule 15-1(15).  Mr. Justice Brown agreed that this was appropriate even though the lawsuit was not filed under the provisions of Rule 15.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[4] Rule 14-1(1)(f) states that costs payable under the Civil Rules or by court order must be assessed as party and party costs under Appendix B, unless:

(f)         subject to subrule (10) of this rule,

(i)         the only relief granted in the action is one or more of money, real property, a builder’s lien and personal property and the plaintiff recovers a judgment in which the total value of the relief granted is $100,000 or less, exclusive of interest and costs, or

(ii)        the trial of the action was completed within 3 days or less,

in which event, Rule 15-1(15) to (17) applies to the action unless the court orders otherwise.

[5] There are other exceptions under Rule 14-1(1), but subsection (f) is the significant one in this case. Rule 14-1(10), which pertains to plaintiffs who recover in this Court a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, does not apply in this case.

[6] Rule 15-1(15)(a) states a party in a fast track action is entitled to costs of $8,000, exclusive of disbursements, if the time spent on the hearing is one day or less, unless the court orders otherwise or the parties consent.

[7] I agree with the plaintiffs that although they had proceeded by way of summary trial and did not file a notice of fast track action, the wording of Rule15-1(1) governs and the action qualifies as a fast track action under Rule 15-1(1)(a) or 15-1(1)(b).

[8] As the plaintiffs point out, because they claimed various forms of relief under the Business Corporations Act, S.B.C. 2002, c. 57 [Business Corporations Act], it is arguable they were claiming more than monetary relief. Even so, the action still completed under Rule 9-7 in less than one day.

[9] The plaintiffs submit it would be appropriate for me to order $8,000 in costs. This represents the amount payable in a fast track action; and, despite the fact that the plaintiffs proceeded by way of summary trial under Rule 9-7, the plaintiffs submit an order for $8,000 in costs is appropriate in this case. I find the $8,000 set out in Rule 15-1(15)(a) is appropriate in this case.

This case is also a useful precedent because as set out in paragraph 8 the Court suggests that Rule 15 applies regardless of quantum provided the trial takes three days or less.

This case is worth reading in conjunction with the recent case of Johnson v. Axten which held that the Rule 15 costs cap can apply to pre-trial settlements of under $100,000 even if the case was not prosecuted under the fast track rule.

Rule 15-1 and Pre Trial Settlement Costs


Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, addressing costs consequences when fast track cases settle prior to the first day of trial.  In short the Court held that the rules operate to fix lump sum costs of $6,500 in these circumstances.
In today’s case (Gill v. Widjaja) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision.  The Plaintiff sued pursuant to Rule 15.  ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $34,800 plus assessable costs and disbursements.  Following this the parties could not agree on some of the disbursement items.  The matter was ultimately put before the Court and in adjudicating the dispute Master Baker confirmed that costs under Rule 15 are set via lump sum.  Specifically the Court provided the following useful reasons:


[16] Tariff amount and Rule 15-1. The real question is: how much should the fee mandated by Rule 15-1, when the matter is settled without trial, be further affected by preparation or lack thereof?  Counsel agree that the starting sum is $8,000.00 and that, since no trial proceeded, there should be a reduction of one day’s costs ($1,500.00). After that they disagree. Mr. Cope says there should be the equivalent of one-half day’s trial cost added back in for trial preparation. Ms. Tonge says $2,000.00 should be further deducted. Certainly, the Rule permits departure from the indicated amount, as it is prefaced with “Unless the court otherwise orders…”.

[17] I start with the assumption that, once the portion attributed to the first day of trial is deducted, the balance is allocated to preparation. It would take compelling facts and circumstances to depart from that simple principle. And that simple principle should be applied when one recalls that the costs provisions of Rule 15-1 are intended to be summary in nature and to avoid assessments such as this. Counsel referred me to other authorities considering and, in effect, parsing pre-trial proceedings, but those cases seem to apply to situations where Rule 37 or 37B offers were made and either accepted or refused. In those cases, of course, it became important to mark the point in the proceedings when the offer was made and to then invoke the Rules’ effects on costs for the proceedings thereafter. In such a case it would require that some assessment be made of the degree of preparation done at the point of the offer. This is not that case.

[18] Mr. Cope argued that Ms. Gill was due some allowance for preparation, yet the tariff items in his bill included Item 17 “All process and correspondence associated with retaining and consulting all experts…” and Item 18 “All process and correspondence associated with contacting, interviewing and issuing subpoenas to all witnesses”. While the items do not apply per se, as Rule 15-1(15)’s omnibus cap does instead, Mr. Cope obviously considered all of that to include most, if not all, of the usual allowable stages of preparation. His draft in the form presented is a tacit admission of that. Moreover, as Ms. Tonge pointed out, there is no evidence of any unusual preparation having occurred before the offer was made and accepted.

[19] Similarly, there is no basis to take the reverse view and conclude that, given the matter settled seven weeks before trial, that no, or substantially no, preparation would have taken place. Quite the contrary: it is clear that Mr. Cope took the usual steps to obtain and organize the evidence he would need to that point and that those preparations were sufficient that he and Ms. Gill were prepared to settle.

[20] In the end there is no basis for any intervention by me, either to deduct or add in, respecting preparation costs. The only deduction from the fast track capped cost will be $1,500.00 representing the first day of trial.

[21] In sum, then, the fee portion of Ms. Gill’s bill of costs is fixed at $6,500.00


Costs Awards For Settlements Below $100,000


(Note: The case discussed below was upheld on appeal in July, 2011 by Madam Justice Ker)
As previously discussed, Rule 15 is the new BC Fast Track Litigation Rule and it is mandatory for cases for damages seeking less than $100,000 and for cases that “can be completed within 3 days“.
Rule 15-1(15) generally limits costs awards for fast track lawsuits to no more than $11,000.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether this limit applies to non-fast track cases that settle for less than $100,000.  In short, Master Keighley held that it can, however, when a case has been removed from the fast track the costs restriction does not apply.
In today’s case (Johnson v. Axten) the Plaintiff started the lawsuit under the former Rule 68.  The parties consented to remove the case from Rule 68 prior to trail and obtained a Court order to that effect.  The case then settled after the new Rule 15 came into force.  The settlement was for $90,000 plus costs and disbursements.  The Defendant argued that the Rule 15 cap on costs should apply.  Master Keighley disagreed finding that while it could apply, it should not in the circumstances of this case.  The Court provided the following useful reasons:

[17]         The Majewska case does, however, contain this helpful observation on the issue of “opting out” of Rule 66, at para. 34:

Moreover, it is important to recognize that parties to a R. 66 action are not compelled to remain in the fast track process. If the spectre of “special circumstances” emerges at any time during the action, whether in the form of complex issues, offers to settle, increased trial time, or any other situation, the parties may consent to removing the case from R. 66, or obtain an order to that effect under R. 66(8). Thus, if a concern arises that costs under R. 66(29) will not be adequate, this can be remedied by taking appropriate action during the proceeding.

and at para. 36:

“Here, if the plaintiff was concerned that R. 66 was no longer appropriate, the proper response was to apply for removal from the fast track litigation. If she chose not to take that step, she should have no basis for complaint that her costs are limited by R. 66(29).”

[18]         In other words, a party who opted out of Rule 66 prior to trial was not limited by Rule 66(29). It is noteworthy that Rule 68, which governed this action prior to the parties “opting out” contained no limitation on costs. Also noteworthy is that Rule 15?1 as well as the case with its predecessors, provides for opting out of the provisions for the Rule and in this case the parties did so.

[19]         Ms. Deane-Cloutier says that although Rule 15-1 does not, on its face, contemplate settlement, neither did Rule 66(29), but that did not prevent the court from holding that the subrule applied to settlement of cases governed by the Rule. That submission, with respect, ignores however the very clear statement of the Court of Appeal in Majewska: that once Rule 66 ceased to apply to an action, a party would not be limited to costs recoverable under Rule 66(29).

[20]         The plaintiff’s costs will be assessed pursuant to Schedule B of the Supreme Court Civil Rules. While I agree that Rule 15-1(1) provides that cost limitations apply to cases which were not “fast tracked” but should have been (regardless of the intentions of the parties), the rule nonetheless provides that even if otherwise applicable, it will not apply to cases where the court has ordered that it will cease to apply. The court did so here, with the consent of the parties and, as a result, the cost limitation set out in Rule 15-1, does not apply.

Removing a Case from Rule 15 – Trial Length


Rule 15 is the new BC Fast Track Litigation Rule and it is mandatory for cases for damages seeking less than $100,000 and for cases that “can be completed within 3 days“.   Rule 15-1(6) permits a court to remove a case from Fast Track Litigation.  The first case I’m aware of dealing with such an application was released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Jones v. Stratford Hall) the Plaintiff sued using the mandatory fast track rule.  The Defendant applied to remove the case arguing that the trial would take more than 3 days.  Master Bishop refused to remove the case from the Fast Track finding that there was a “rational possibility” the case could be concluded in 3 days.  The Court provided the following short but helpful reasons:
[3] With respect to the first application, that is a little bit more difficult of a question to resolve, but in my view, given the test set out by Master Bolton that the defendant must show quite clearly that the matter cannot be completed in two days ?? three days, sorry, I believe the defendant fails on that basis.  I believe there is a rational possibility that counsel, particularly given the case management conference that is happening tomorrow, can complete matters within the three days, and therefore that application is dismissed.
Master Bishop refers to a case where Master Bolton appears to have addressed this issue previously (and perhaps in more detail) although the reasons for judgement do not indicate which authority the Court is relying on.   Until more precedents are developed interpreting Rule 15, authorities addressing the former Rule 68 may be of some assistance and guidance.  You can access my archived posts addressing the former Rule 68 here.

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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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