"Short Fuse" Formal Settlement Offer Triggers Double Costs

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether a formal settlement offer open for only 3 days could trigger costs consequences.
In today’s case (Henry v. Bennett) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision and sued for damages.  The claim was ultimately dismissed with the Plaintiff being at fault for the crash.  Prior to the trial the Defendant provided a formal offer of $30,000 which was only open for acceptance for three days.
The Plaintiff argued that the offer should not attract double costs in part due to its short window.  Madam Justice Ballance disagreed finding given the significant liability risks at trial it was a reasonable offer.  In addressing its short lifespan not being a barrier the Court provided the following reasons:

[41]         I would ordinarily regard a three-day fuse attached to an offer that was delivered close to the eve of trial, where it would be expected that the party would be engrossed in the demands of trial preparation, as posing an unreasonable time constraint within which to give it meaningful evaluation.  The difficulty facing Mr. Henry, however, is that due mainly to his own damaging discovery evidence, he ought reasonably to have anticipated that he faced significant exposure of not only faring poorly on the issue of liability, but losing his case altogether.  Knowing, as he did, his harmful evidence, Mr. Henry should have appreciated the deep weakness of his claim and the risk of significant apportionment against him or the outright dismissal of his suit and his exposure for an adverse costs award.  All things considered, the 2011 Offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted by Mr. Henry.

[42]         With respect to other the pertinent factors, in dismissing Mr. Henry’s case, the Court placed heavy emphasis on his discovery evidence concerning liability for the accident.  Relatively little is known about Mr. Henry’s specific financial circumstances.  Based on the evidence at trial, it is reasonable to infer that his financial situation is modest.  However, that, of itself or in combination with any other factor, is not reason enough in this case to refuse the defendant an award of double costs.

[43]         The defendant is entitled to costs of this proceeding at Scale B up to and including March 8, 2011, and double costs thereafter.

bc injury law, Double Costs, Henry v. Bennett, Madam Justice Ballance, Rule 9, Rule 9-1, Rule 9-1(5), short fuse settlement offer

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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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