Supreme Court of BC and Trial Costs
Today I’m blogging from sunny Kamloops from my colleague Peter Jensen’s office. Clients are coming soon so I have to keep this short.
The Supreme Court of BC has an unlimited monetary jurisdiction whereas BC small claims court currently has a jurisdiction of $25,000 or less. When suing for damages as a result of a BC car accident you have to decide which court you will sue in.
When involved in an ICBC tort claim in the BC Supreme Court the winner can be awarded Costs, whereas in Small Claims Court the winner can only be awarded disbursements as opposed to Tariff Costs.
When you bring an ICBC claim in Supreme Court and are awarded less than $25,000 can you still be awarded your court tariff Costs? The answer is sometimes.
Rule 57(10) of the BC Supreme Court rules states that
A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
The question then is, did you have a good reason to sue in Supreme Court when you started the lawsuit?
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff Costs even though the ultimate award was below $25,000. At Paragraphs 7-10, the trial judge (Madam Justice Humphries) explained why in this case the Plaintiff had ‘sufficient reason’ to bring the suit is Supreme Court holding that:
 The relevant time at which the value of (the Plaintiff’s) claim should be assessed, then, is when the action was commenced. At that time, (the Plaintiff) still had some residual effects from the accident and was missing the occasional day of work. I found this evidence credible, and noted that she still had occasional flare-ups, with decreasing frequency. Her voluntary retirement worked to the benefit of the defendant in that any potential ongoing wage loss from these flare-ups would not be claimed against him. (the Plaintiff) was careful to ensure that only those days attributable to the effects of the accident were claimed for. She asserted a claim for loss of earning capacity, but decided not to pursue it by the time of trial. Although such an award would not have been large, if any at all were established, it is difficult to say, in hindsight, that the entire claim would obviously have come under the Small Claims limit of $25,000 at the time the action was commenced. Plaintiff’s counsel subsequently came to assess the claim with the advantage of all the information available by the time of trial and to put forward a realistic and sustainable range of damages in his final submissions, but that is not, according to Reimann, relevant to the present issue.
 In Faedo v. Dowell and Wachter, M064051 (October 19, 2007) Vancouver, Curtis J. held that in a situation where the defendant put the plaintiff to the proof of having suffered any injury at all, thus making her credibility a crucial issue at trial, it was reasonable for the plaintiff to require the assistance of counsel. She was therefore justified in commencing the action in Supreme Court where she could hope to recover some of the costs it was necessary for her to expend in retaining counsel to recover the compensation to which she was found to be entitled. This reasoning has application here as well.
 In the result, the plaintiff has advanced sufficient reason for having commenced her action in this court and is entitled to her costs pursuant to Rule 66.
This is a good judgement for Plaintiffs bringing ICBC claims, particularly those involved in Low Velocity Impacts (LVI’s) where ICBC denies that injury occurred. It recognizes the fact that ICBC often tells people that they aren’t injured at all and this brings their credibility into play. Here the court realized that in such circumstances it is appropriate to hire a personal injury lawyer and try to offset some of these costs by suing in Supreme Court even though the Small Claims Court has sufficient monetary jursidiction to deal with the tort claim.