Plaintiff Ordered to Pay Defence Costs for Failing to Accept “Reasonable” Settlement Offer

In a fairly typical exercise of a Court’s discretion pursuant to Rule 9-1(5), reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to pay a Defendant’s trial costs for failing to accept a reasonable pre-trial formal settlement offer.
In last week’s case the Plaintiff sustained a fracture wrist in a motor vehicle collision.  The fracture went on to cause long term complications
The Plaintiff advanced damages over $500,000.  At trial the Plaintiff was awarded $121,000 in damages, $85,000 of which was for non-pecuniary loss.  Prior to trial the Defendant tabled a formal offer of $210,000.  It is noteworthy that this offer was tabled the last week before trial and was only open for acceptance for two days.  The Court found that in these circumstances the offer was reasonable and stripped the Plaintiff of post offer costs and further ordered the Plaintiff to pay the Defendant’s trial costs.  In doing so Mr. Justice Curtis provided the following reasons:
[8]             In personal injury claims, in which liability has been admitted, there is in most cases a somewhat predictable range of possible awards.  It is to be expected that counsel taking a case to trial will have discussed with their clients the possible range of damages, the evidentiary issues and the risks of and expense of proceeding to trial.  It is to be expected therefore that as the trial approaches, counsel and their client have in mind a possible range of recovery and the risks of litigating.  Naturally, a plaintiff hopes for an award in the high end of the range and the defendant for an award at the low end.
[9]             The Rule relied upon by the defendant is clearly intended to encourage settlements on the basis of reasonable offers.  To be fair, of course, the offer must have been one which ought reasonably to have been accepted, and must have been presented in a reasonable manner and in sufficient time to be properly assessed.
[10]         Clearly, in this case, the plaintiff and her counsel were of the opinion that it was worth taking the chance that she would do better than the offer at trial.
[11]         In my opinion, on my analysis of the medical evidence put forward to support the claim for future care costs, there was little likelihood of an award of $400,000 for future care costs, however, the general damages could have been $100,000 and $15,000 was received for the in trust claim – which suggests the $210,000 new money offer was an offer of something like $100,000 for future care costs.
[12]         In my opinion, a rigorous analysis of the evidence for the claim for costs of future care at the time the offer was open would have lead to the conclusion that the offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted.  The recovery at trial, particularly for future care costs was markedly less than offered.
[13]         In the circumstances I find that a just result between the parties in this case is an order the Plaintiff recover the costs of her action up to Friday, March 16, at 4:00 p.m. when the offer expired and that the defendant recover costs thereafter, both to be assessed according to Scale “B”.

Mr. Justice Curtis, Rule 9, Rule 9-1, Rule 9-1(5), Rule 9-1(6)

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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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