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.

Affleck v. Palmer, bc injury law, Mr. Justice Brown, RUle 14, Rule 14-1, Rule 14-1(1), Rule 14-1(1)(f), Rule 15, Rule 15-1, Rule 15-1(1)(a), Rule 15-1(1)(b), Rule 15-1(15), Rule 7, Rule 7-6

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ERIK
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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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