Plaintiff's "Disadvantaged" Financial Circumstances Disentitle ICBC to Costs


There have been many cases dealing with “the relative financial circumstances of the parties” focussing on whether a Defendant is insured in deciding the costs consequences after trials with formal settlement offers. (The BC Court of Appeal weighed in on this issue earlier this year deciding insurance can in fact be considered).  There have not, however, been many cases dealing with the Plaintiff’s finances (or lack thereof) as a compelling circumstance.  This overdue issue was addressed earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry.
In today’s case (Dickson v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a bicycle accident involving an unknown motorist.  He sued ICBC under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC denied fault on behalf of the unknown driver.  Prior to trial ICBC offered to settle the issue of fault on a 50/50 basis.  The plaintiff rejected this offer and went to trial where Madam Justice Russell found both parties equally at fault.
Typically, when ICBC matches or beats their formal offer at trial, ICBC becomes entitled to post offer costs.  Madam Justice Russell refused to follow this usual course, however, noting that the Plaintiff’s financial circumstances put the plaintiff at a ‘serious disadvantage‘.  In awarding the Plaintiff costs to the time of the offer and depriving both parties of post offer costs Madam Justice Russell held as follows:

[13]    It is my view that the plaintiff’s position is one of serious disadvantage as a result of the accident.  I recall that he was unable to work for a long period of time as a result of his injury and was still unable to return to work by the time of the hearing.

[14]    The plaintiff is the sole support of his family and either had run out of disability benefits or was close to the end of those benefits by the time of the summary trial…

[17]    I view the financial circumstances of the plaintiff as compelling on the issue of whether double costs should be awarded.

[18]    In Osooli-Talesh v. Emami, 2008 BCSC 1749, the offer to settle matched the judgment achieved and Sigurdson, J. concluded that the court may award payment of double costs where an offer to settle matches the results at trial.  However, he went on to consider all the factors listed in Rule 37B.  He determined that the parties had divided success and should therefore bear their own costs.

[19]    I am guided by that decision and consider it apposite to the circumstances of this case.

[20]    I award costs of this case to the plaintiff to the date of the receipt of the defendants’ offer to settle and order both parties to bear their own costs thereafter.

bc injury law, Dickson v. ICBC, formal settlement offers, Madam Justice Russell, Rule 9, Rule 9-1, Rule 9-1(6)

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ERIK
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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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