I’ve written many times about the significant costs a party can be exposed to for being on the losing end of a BC Supreme Court lawsuit. Reasons for judgement were released today further demonstrating this reality under the New BC Supreme Court Rules.
In today’s case (Chen v. Beltran) the young Plaintiff entered an intersection against a red light on his skateboard. He was struck by a vehicle operated by the Defendant and sustained injuries. He sued for damages but his claim was dismissed with the Court finding him entirely at fault for the accident.
Rule 14-1(9) of the BC Supreme Court Rules typically requires a losing party to pay costs to a successful party. ICBC relied on this section and requested that their costs of over $75,000 be paid by the Plaintiff’s family. The Plaintiff opposed arguing that no costs should be awarded. One of the reasons advanced by the Plaintiff was that such an order would “financially cripple the (plaintiff’s) family“.
Mr. Justice Greyell rejected this argument. The Court, while disallowing some of the most significant disbursements claimed by the Defendant, did go on to order that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs. In rejecting the “financially crippling” argument Mr. Justice Greyell reasoned as follows:
 The first basis upon which the plaintiff says the defendants should be denied costs is that Allan suffered significant injuries in the Accident and will require ongoing medical and psychological care throughout his life. His ongoing care will involve significant cost to both his parents. Allan’s parents have already incurred substantial debt to prosecute the lawsuit, have limited financial resources and will have difficulty providing for Allan’s future care even if they are successful on this application. The plaintiff says that an order for costs will financially “cripple” the family. While I have great sympathy for Allan’s parents the case law is clear that the financial circumstances of a litigant, standing alone, are not to be taken into consideration as a factor in the awarding of costs…
 It is clear based on the above authorities that this Court is unable, on any principled basis, to take the plaintiff’s financial circumstances into account in determining whether to award costs.
 To conclude otherwise would undermine the rationale underlying Rule 14-9 and would likely lead to the promotion of litigation rather than to promote the “winnowing” function described by Hall J.A. in Catalyst Paper. It would lead to a collapse of the general principle discussed in the authorities and result in the unacceptable proposition that costs in each case would be measured not by a party’s success but by the personal financial circumstances of the litigants.
It is worth noting that this result should be contrasted with cases decided under Rule 9-1(5) where the Court does have a discretion to consider a party’s financial circumstances following trial where a formal offer of settlement was made.
Today’s case demonstrates the real world expenses that can be associated with losing an ICBC Claim in the BC Supreme Court. It is vital to gauge these costs and the risks of trial prior to putting a case before a Judge or Jury.