Litigation Guardians Are Not Immune From "Loser Pays" Costs Consequences

Update September 25, 2013 – The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons released today
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I’ve written many times about the BC Supreme Court’s “loser pays” system which generally requires a losing litigant to pay for the winner’s costs and disbursements.  If a lawsuit is started on a child’s behalf and on reaching adulthood they take over the claim themselves can the former litigation guardian still be exposed to loser pays costs consequences?  The answer is yes as was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In this week’s case (McIlvenna v. Viebeg) a lawsuit was commenced on behalf of an infant plaintiff in 2003.  By 2009 the Plaintiff was an adult and took over the prosecution of his claim himself by filing an affidavit of attainment of majority.  The matter proceeded to trial and the claim was ultimately dismissed.  The Defendant was awarded costs.  An issue arose as to whether the Plaintiff or the previous litigation guardian were liable to pay these.  The Court held that the Litigation Guardian was liable for costs up until the Plaintiff reached the age of majority and the Plaintiff was liable from that point onward.   Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:
[17]         Although Bird J.A.’s comments on the liability of litigation guardians for costs in Miller were dicta, they were considered dicta.  Bird J.A. concluded that an infant ratifying the action after attaining the age of majority does not inherit and replace the litigation guardian’s liability for costs.  I have seen nothing in the authorities that lends support to the position that a defendant’s possible entitlement to costs from a litigation guardian disappears when the infant reaches majority.  I expect that subsequent to Miller, litigation guardians starting actions (and filing affidavits at the time) understood their potential liability for costs and the fact that it continued at least up to the infant’s majority.  Rule 20-2(12) and (13) do not suggest that the filing an affidavit upon attaining the age of majority removes any possible past liability of the litigation guardian for costs. 
[18]         While it is true that a possible adverse costs order may deter a person from suing as a litigation guardian, there are also policy reasons that support awarding costs in favour of successful defendants.  In any event, I think the underlying law has been clear for more the 50 years that a litigation guardian assumes potential liability for costs if he or she starts an action as a litigation guardian and is not successful. 
[19]         Accordingly, my conclusion is that Shawne McIlvenna, the plaintiff’s former litigation guardian, is responsible for the costs that I have already ordered, up to February 27, 2009, when the plaintiff filed his affidavit of majority. ..

Loser pays, McIlvenna v. Viebig, Mr. Justice Sigurdson, RUle 14, Rule 14-1, Rule 14-1(9), Rule 20, Rule 20-2, Rule 20-2(12), Rule 20-2(13)

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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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