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Tag: costs consequences

More on Rule 37B – The Conduct of the Parties as a Factor

Further to my numerous posts revieiwng BC Supreme Court cases interpreting and applying Rule 37B following an injury claims trial, reasons for judgement were released today dealing with a unique issue; in exercising discretion under the Rule can the Court consider the conduct of the successful litigant?
In today’s case (Lakhani v. Elliott) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 car crash.  Before trial the Plaintiff made a formal offer to settle her case under Rule 37B for $95,000 plus costs and disbursements.
While the Plaintiff did not obtain all the compensation she sought at trial she fared well enough to beat her formal offer.  Specifically, after an 11 day trial Mr. Justice Voith awarded the Plaintiff just over $105,000 in total damages (You can click here to read my post summarizing the trial findings).
Despite the Plaintiff’s relative success at trial all did not go smoothly.  Mr. Justice Voith made some damaging findings with respect to her credibility.  Some of the highlights of these findings were as follows:

[33]      The defendants asserted that Mrs. Lakhani’s credibility was suspect. I agree in significant measure. I believe there are a number of distinct factors that have caused me to question, in some cases reject, and in other cases to significantly discount her evidence. In the main, I find that Mrs. Lakhani has overstated her symptoms resulting from the Accident; downplayed the significance of her 2001 workplace injury; and has been untruthful regarding the Accident’s effect on her graduation from nursing school. I will discuss these concerns in turn…

[40]      I believe that Mrs. Lakhani has tended to considerably overstate the severity of the symptoms that she suffers from as a result of the Accident….

[46]      For the plaintiff to assert that she has routinely and consistently suffered from pain, from the date of the Accident to the trial, which approaches the worst pain possible is not tenable. For her to describe her pain in terms which would be comparable to that of patients who are heavily medicated to assist with their pain management or who are inextremis goes beyond mere subjectivity or imprecision. It is instead either so inaccurate a description as to be of no value or it is a description intended to overstate. In either case it is not a description that can be relied upon….

[51]      The second significant concern with the plaintiff’s evidence was a tendency to downplay the significance of her 2001 workplace injury or to suggest some improvement in her symptoms in relation to that injury prior to the Accident…

[54]      Indeed Mrs. Lakhani sought broadly to suggest that in late 2004 she reclaimed or reassumed control of her life. She said this was so with respect to spending time with her sister, with respect to gardening and even with respect to her household activities. This too is all inconsistent with the objective record of what she told others she could do, with the medical assessment that her condition had plateaued or with her admission that things had become “as good as they were going to get”…

[59]      Quite simply the overall picture which the plaintiff sought to paint with her evidence was one where the very significant “life altering changes” brought on by her low back injury occupied little or no space. This absence of balance in her evidence had the affect of considerably detracting from its weight.

[60]      A third concern with Mrs. Lakhani’s evidence arises from having testified that the Accident caused her to graduate two terms later than she otherwise would have. Specifically, Mrs. Lakhani said that the pain and difficulty associated with the Accident caused her to skip the May to August 2005, as well as the January to April 2007 academic terms. This is not credible on an objective basis…

[66]      Plaintiff’s counsel sought to persuade me that an eight month delay in Mrs. Lakhani’s graduation was a very modest component of the plaintiff’s claim and not one that would cause the plaintiff to be less than forthright. In my view, however, the focus of the plaintiff’s evidence was not designed to obtain the modest financial benefit that receiving her degree earlier would have generated, but rather to impress upon the court the ongoing severity of her injuries. Quite apart from her motivation, the documents I’ve referred to as well as the admissions she made in cross examination, simply do not accord with the evidence she first gave.

With this background at hand the Plaintiff brought an application for double costs under Rule 37B.  The Defendants opposed and argued that given the Plaintiff’s “failure to be forthright at trial” the Court should not exercise its discretion to award the Plaintiff double costs.  Mr. Justice Voith agreed and provided the following analysis:

0] While the dominant objective of Rule 37B, found under the heading “Offers of Settlement”, is likely to promote early or reasonable settlement, additional factors, and in particular the conduct or honesty of one of the parties, can be relevant in considering whether to make an order of double costs under 37B(5)(b). This is apparent from numerous sources…
[13] Second, both the permissive nature of Rule 37B(5), which establishes that the new rule does not purport to create any automatic double cost consequences, and the non-exhaustive list of factors in Rule 37B(6) acknowledge the flexibility inherent in Rule 37B and the prospect that the Rule is amenable to furthering legitimate policy objectives apart from settlement…

[15] It is important to emphasize that in this case there is no issue of depriving the plaintiff of the ordinary costs to which she is entitled or of any award of special costs being made against her. Instead, the only issue is whether she should be entitled to double costs in light of various findings that I made in my Reasons for Judgment.

[16] Having regard to the foregoing authorities, and the underlying rationale that drives them, I can see no principled reason why a lack of candour or probity on the part of a party who gives evidence at trial should not constitute an “other factor the court considers appropriate” under Rule 37B(6)(d) in any potential award of double costs. An award of double costs, or a refusal to award such costs, is one of the means available to a court of signalling to litigants the types of conduct or behaviour it considers as either worthy of promotion or, conversely, as worthy of rebuke…

[20]        The same considerations apply to a party whose evidence is found by a court to be dishonest or designed to exaggerate or inflate a claim. Such a party should understand the seriousness with which that conduct will be regarded. It should similarly understand the potential consequences of that conduct, including its relevance to an award of double costs that the party might otherwise be entitled to.

[21]        In making these comments I am mindful that there are a great many cases where a party’s evidence is not accepted by the court for a variety of reasons. In many cases a party’s best recollection may simply not accord with other objective evidence. A party’s candid evidence may not, in light of the expert evidence, be accepted. Indeed it is not remarkable or unusual for a party to place a somewhat positive slant on given events. The mere fact that a party’s evidence is not accepted by the court, without more, does not engage the considerations I have identified. There is nothing in the conduct of such a party that warrants any reproach or criticism. It is, instead, the natural result of all cases where competing memories or competing versions of given events require resolution…

[24] In this case, the specific findings I referred to go beyond the “normal trial process” and do extend to a finding that the plaintiff sought to mislead the court and to significantly exaggerate the claim being advanced. Such conduct is worthy of censure and, in the circumstances of this case, disentitles the plaintiff to the award of double costs that she seeks.

This case serves as an important reminder of the crucial role that Plaintiff credibility plays in injury litigation.
In my continued efforts to get us all prepared for the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules I will again point out that Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 under the New Rules. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which should help cases such as this one retain their value as precedents.

More on Rule 37B – Lack of a "Reasonable Counter Proposal" Considered

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering a factor that I don’t believe has been previously considered under Rule 37B, the effect (or lack of) a reasonable counter offer.
In today’s case (Foster v. Juhasz) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC car crash.  She sued for damages.  Before trial she made a formal offer under Rule 37B for some $285,000 and at the same time indicated she would be willing to settle for $214,000.  The Defendants rejected the offers, apparently did not make a counter offer and went to trial.
At trial the Jury awarded the Plaintiff over $450,000 in total damages.  The Plaintiff then brought a motion for ‘double costs’ under Rule 37B.
The Defendants argued that they could not have accepted the offer because their insurance policy was only for $200,000.   Mr. Justice Crawford rejected this argument and ordered that the Defendants pay double costs.  He reasoned that the offer should have been accepted.  In coming to this decision he took into consideration the fact that the Defendants did not make a “rational counter-proposal“.  Mr. Justice Crawford provided the following reasons:

[14] While I accept the policy limits may have been a factor in not accepting the offer, it does not answer the question why a rational counter-proposal was not made by the defendants. There was no comment made by the defendants as to the reasonableness or otherwise of the plaintiff’s offer. Rather, the position was taken that the defendants had a meritorious case to present on the issues which could result in an award under policy limits. If that was so, then a sensible and rational defendant could have sat down and appraised the plaintiff’s case. For instance an assessment of general damages at $60,000, past wage loss at $2,000, future lost earning capacity at $35,000, and $25,000 for future care could be made. That would not have been unreasonable and at least if not accepted, might have created a pathway to settlement. Such an offer pales in comparison to the jury award, especially the future income capacity and future care components. More so in that I recall directing the jury to be moderate. I am obliged to say the jury’s award was far beyond the evidence on these aspects.

[15] However, I do not accept the argument that the defendants were in an impossible situation in terms of accepting the offer. They chose their own level of insurance, and their choice was, with respect, a very low one given current potential liabilities for motor vehicle owners. I accept counsel’s belief that there were reasonable arguments to advance as to the amounts of the plaintiff’s claims. It was not unreasonable to think a jury, in light of the small past income loss, might not give a large future lost income award. As to the reasoning of the jury on the future care aspect, that cannot be fathomed. But no direction is given to a jury on the quantum of general damages, save in catastrophic cases.

[16] The motion for judgment was not contested by the defendants at trial. Counsel does say the case is under appeal, so the quantum may not be settled. I agree with Humphries J. that while consideration should be given to the result, the court’s discretion is not to be driven by “hindsight analysis”: see Lumanlan v. Sadler, 2009 BCSC 142.

[17] Another aspect is deterrence. The difference in the offer and the final award is a factor, as is the failure of the defendants to make a sensible counter-offer. It was not a case where the plaintiff would not obtain a reasonable award. It was a case to be carefully assessed and the usual avenues for settlement explored. A reasonable counter-offer would show a sensible stance being taken by the defendants before trial. That course was not chosen.

[18] Under the previous rule, double costs would have been automatic. Now there is consideration of whether or not the offer could be reasonably accepted.

[19] While there may have been some grounds for not accepting the offer, no response was made, the defendants choosing to “keep their powder dry” for trial. In the circumstances, the plaintiff is entitled to her double costs, which I allow for preparation for trial, examination for discovery, and the trial. I do not allow costs for the notices to admit which I now address.

In my continued efforts to get us all prepared for the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules I will again point out that Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 under the New Rules. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which should help cases such as this one retain their value as precedents.

Even More on Costs and "Sufficient Reason" to Sue in the BC Supreme Court

Further to my previous posts on this topic, reasons for judgement were released today considering whether to award a Plaintiff Supreme Court Costs in an ICBC Claim where the judgement amount was within the Small Claims Court’s jurisdiction.
In today’s case (Mohamadi v. Tremblay) the Plaintiff was awarded $10,490 in his ICBC Claim after trial (click here to read my summary of the trial judgment).
The Plaintiff brought an application to be awarded ‘costs’ under Rule 57(10) which reads as follows:
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.
ICBC opposed this application.  Mr. Justice Truscott set out the leading test in applying Rule 57(10) from the BC Court of Appeal (Reimann v. Aziz) where the BC high court held that “Considering Rule 57(10) in its legislative context and applying its words in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the legislation and its objects, I conclude that a plaintiff does not have an ongoing obligation to assess the quantum of a claim and that the point in time for a consideration of whether a plaintiff had sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court is the time of the initiation of the action.”
Mr. Justice Truscott held that this Plaintiff did not have “sufficient reason for bringing” his lawsuit in the Supreme Court.  He summarized the key reasons behind his conclusion as follows:

[58] I recognize that most plaintiffs with personal injury claims probably feel more comfortable with counsel representing them and more confident that they will obtain a greater amount of damages for their claim with the assistance of counsel than by acting on their own in Small Claims Court.

[59] However, the onus to prove that at the beginning of the claim there is sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in Supreme Court, as Rule 57(10) states, lies in practice to some great extent on plaintiff’s counsel who is advising the plaintiff on the value of his claim and commencing the action.

[60] Here, I am satisfied that if Dr. Fox’s medical records pre-accident had been obtained and if his opinions and the opinions of Dr. Cameron had been obtained before the writ of summons was issued, with the plaintiff’s credibility at issue with respect to the injuries he was alleging that were not supported by his doctors, with his false statement to ICBC, and with the contrary evidence of his employer, it could and should easily have been determined that the action should be commenced in Small Claims Court and not this Court.

In my continued exercise to get used to the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules, I am cross referencing all civil procedure cases I write about with the new rules.   The Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identically to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants after July 1, 2010.

Purpose of Rule 37B in Injury Litigation Discussed

(Update: December 14, 2011the below decision was modified somewhat by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement released today)
Precedents with respect to costs consequences under Rule 37B are still developing as this rule is slowly being molded into place.  The one clear pattern under Rule 37B is that of varying results which is a welcome relief from the strict and sometimes harsh costs results that flowed to litigants who could not beat a formal offer under the old Rule 37.
Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the purpose of Rule 37B in Personal Injury Litigation.
In today’s case (Fan v. Chana) the Plaintiff sued as a result of alleged disability flowing from a motor vehicle collision which occurred in 2000.  The Plaintiff’s claims were largely rejected at trial with Mr. Justice McEwan finding that the crash caused nothing more than an “unexceptional soft-tissue injury” and that the litigaiton was “driven largely by parents…and a series of medical interventions premised on their representations, which were significantly at odds with certain basic information“.  In the end Mr. Justice McEwan awarded the Plaintiff just over $31,000 in damages.  (click here to read my blog post on the trial judgement)
Before trial the Defendant made a formal offer of $75,000 plus costs.  Since the Defendant beat their formal offer they brought an application for costs under Rule 37B.  Illustrating just how expensive personal injury litigation can be the Plaintiff’s costs and disbursements totaled over $85,000 and the Defendants totaled over $43,000.
In making a rather conventional award giving the Plaintiff most of her costs and disbursements up to the time of the formal offer and awarding the Defendant their costs and the disbursements from the time of the offer forward Mr. Justice McEwan made the following useful observations about Rule 37B:

[14] I agree that it is very difficult to see how the plaintiff’s guardian ad litem could have accepted the offer given the medical evidence at hand.  I doubt that the public trustee would have considered it prudent.  Nor do I see how a pre-trial judge could have made a sensible suggestion without hearing the evidence.

[15] The circumstances of this case illuminate a difficulty that arises with some kinds of personal injury cases.  Those with evident injuries and predictable consequences can usually be located within a range that allows for informed discussion.  Some soft tissue injuries, however, sometimes take a course that includes poorly founded medical opinions that seem to verify claimants’ beliefs that they have been seriously harmed.

[16] I have observed in other cases that it is not part of doctors’ function to cross-examine their patients.  On the other hand, I do not think it asks too much of medical professionals who know their reports are going to be used in forensic contexts, that matters that can be verified by objective evidence be verified.  The cogency of medical reports erodes pretty quickly when, for example, someone who plays on the school basketball team is otherwise described as seriously limited in his or her physical capacities.  There were several examples of such difficulties in this case.

[17] It is disturbing to find that a matter has come to trial on a costly series of opinions, founded on premises that a rudimentary effort at fact checking would reveal to be dubious.  It is not asking experts to trespass the fact-finding responsibilities of the court to ask that they take some responsibility for the soundness of the premises on which they proceed.  It may be that disbursements for such reports ought to be more carefully scrutinized for value, when bills of costs are taxed.

[18] Rule 37B is relatively recent.  I do not say new, because it amounts to a restoration of a broad discretion which had been curtailed by a series of rules amendments, the last of which occurred in 1999.  Even then, the court retained its inherent jurisdiction until that was essentially eliminated with respect to costs by appellate rulings (see: Cridge v. Harper Grey Easton, 2005 BCCA 33, 37 B.C.L.R. (4th) 62; Bedwell v. McGill, 2008 BCCA 526. The results were sometimes hard on parties who had guessed wrongly about their claims. The recent history of the costs rule is briefly, and helpfully, set out by Goepel J., in A.E. v. D.W.J., 2009 BCSC 505.

[19] The reintroduction of judicial discretion in costs certainly serves the ends of justice. Costs should be a penalty for unreasonable conduct in the litigation, not a penalty for failing to guess the outcome. In this regard, Courts must, I think, extend some leeway to litigants holding honest but, ultimately, mistaken views of their claims. It is generally better that such expectations be disposed of at law, rather than discouraged.  The public should not be given the impression that there is no reasonable access to a legal resolution.  It must be recognized that some people will only be comfortable if they “hear it from the judge.” This should be a valid option for those who seek it, not a form of deemed unreasonableness.  As such, inducements to settle, and to avail oneself of alternate dispute resolution, ought to complement rather than obstruct judicial determinations…

[21] The obstacle to the acceptance of a reasonable settlement offer in this case was clearly a belief that, by the alchemy of endorsement by experts, a set of facts that was or should have been assessed as dubious would be accepted by the trier of fact.

[22] These factual weaknesses should have been evident by the time the offer was made, but by then, a great deal had been invested in medical and other reports.  It seems likely that that investment contributed to an unreal expectation on the part of the plaintiff’s guardian.

[23] I am of the view that the fairest disposition of costs in the circumstances is to allow the plaintiff’s costs and disbursements to the date of the offer, and the defendant, its costs and disbursements thereafter, with the exception that I would disallow from the plaintiff’s disbursements the reports of Dr. Hahn, and the disallowed report of Dr. Kuttner.  Dr. Kuttner’s report was not proper opinion evidence.  Dr. Hahn’s reports should not be disbursements that the defendants should pay either before or after the tender of the offer to settle.

Another Rule 37B Case – Plaintiff Awarded Trial Costs Despite not Beating Defence Offer

(Please note the case discussed in this post was overturned on Appeal, you can click here for an updated post and click hear to read the BC Court of Appeal decision)
Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with costs consequences under Rule 37B.
Although Rule 37B has some flexibility to its outcomes, normally when a Plaintiff fails to beat a defence formal settlement offer after trial the Plaintiff is deprived of his/her costs and the Defendant is awarded theirs.  Today’s case had a result which departs from this norm.
In today’s case (Gehlen v. Rana) the Plaintiff was injured when she was a passenger involved in a rear-end car crash.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash but denied liability to the Plaintiff claiming that the Plaintiff “was not present in the vehicle at the time of the accident“.  The Defendant made a formal offer to settle the Plaintiff’s claim for $22,000 plus disbursements.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and went to trial.  After trial the Jury awarded the Plaintiff total damages of just over $13,000.
The Plaintiff brought a motion for her costs and the Defendant brought a counter motion for their costs from the time of the offer onward.  Mr. Justice Leask held that the Plaintiff should be awarded her full costs, even for steps taken after the formal settlement offer despite not beating the offer.  His reasoning was as follows:

[18]         As to s-s. (d), I consider two other factors to be relevant.  First, the defendant’s choice of trial by jury, which considerably increases the costs.  Second, the manner in which the defence was conducted – to accuse the plaintiff and her family of fraud – that accusation having been rejected by the jury.

[19]         Turning last to s-s. (a) – the most important question – whether the offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted.  On this issue, I agree with Goepel J.’s judgment in A.E. v. D.W.J., 2009 BCSC 505, at paragraph 55:

[55]      … this analysis is not one to be done based on hindsight once the final result is known.  The reasonableness of the plaintiff’s decision not to accept the offer to settle must be assessed without reference to the court’s decision.

[20]         I am satisfied that the defendant’s denial of liability, and the allegations of fraud that underlay that denial, dominated the plaintiff’s thinking at the time the offer to settle was made and, indeed, throughout the entire pre-trial period.  Knowing that her claim was not fraudulent and knowing the persuasive evidence she had to rebut the allegation of fraud, the plaintiff thought she had a good answer to the defendant’s “low ball” offer to settle.  With hindsight, it is obvious that her counsel did not anticipate the defendant’s vigorous attack on her credibility including the detailed attack on her employment resumé and the emphasis on her second accident.  Her counsel’s trial preparation did not include preparing her or her witnesses for these issues.  However, analyzing the plaintiff’s decision not to accept the defendant’s offer to settle without the benefit of hindsight, I am satisfied that it was not an offer that ought reasonably to have been accepted.

[21]         Analyzing all the Rule 37B(6) factors, I am satisfied that the plaintiff is entitled to a judgment under Rule 37B(5)(c) and is entitled “in respect of all … of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery … of the offer to settle, costs to which the party would have been entitled had the offer not been made” (emphasis added).

I turn now to the plaintiff’s submission for 1.5 times Scale B costs because of the allegation of fraud made by the defendant and the manner in which those allegations were pursued at trial.  Having taken that factor into account in my analysis of Rule 37B(6), I believe it would represent a form of “double counting” to award increased costs for this factor.  My conclusion is that the plaintiff is entitled to her costs and reasonable disbursements of the entire proceeding on Scale B.

More on Costs and "Sufficient Reason" for Suing in Supreme Court

I’ve previously posted on the topic of costs consequences when a Plaintiff succeeds in a BC Supreme Court lawsuit but is awarded damages within the small claims court jurisdiction.
For the Plaintiff to be entitled to costs it must be found that the Plaintiff had “sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court”.  Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with this issue.
In today’s case (Johannson v. National Car Rental) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 BC Car Crash.  The Defendant admitted fault.  At trial Mr. Justice Barrow found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which he summarized as follows:
I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her upper back and neck in the accident. She followed all of the medical advice she was given and was, I am satisfied, motivated to overcome her injuries. Between the date of the accident and the end of the year, she saw her chiropractor approximately 25 times. I am satisfied that the frequency of these visits was due to the pain and discomfort she was experiencing. The injuries caused her considerable discomfort, moreso than similar injuries might cause to other persons because of her pre-existing condition.
Mr. Justice Barrow awarded the Plaintiff just over $15,000 in total damages (well below the Small Claims Court’s current monetary jurisdiction of $25,000).  One of the central issues at trial was weather the Plaintiff suffered a frozen shoulder in the car accident on top of her soft tissue injuries.  Ultimately the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer from a frozen shoulder but this was not caused by the accident.
The Plaintiff brought a motion to be awarded Supreme Court Costs arguing she had sufficient reason to bring her claim in the Supreme Court.  Specifically it was argued that if the Plaintiff’s expert evidence was accepted with respect to the cause of her frozen shoulder her claim was well within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.  The Defence lawyer argued otherwise stating that there was no sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court and that “the Plaintiff should have realized at the time she commenced her action that her frozen shoulder was not caused by the motor vehicle accident”.
The Court concluded that there was sufficient reason for this Plaintiff to sue in Supreme Court.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Barrow summarized and applied some of the principles in these types of cases as follows:
Rule 66(29) is, by its terms, subject to Rule 57(10). Rule 57(10) provides as follows:

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.

[4] The onus is on the plaintiff under Rule 57(10) to justify her choice of forum (Bhanji v. Quezada, 2003 BCCA 445). Until the Court of Appeal’s decision in Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448; 286 D.L.R. (4th) 330, there was some uncertainty as to whether the plaintiff’s obligation to justify its choice of forum was a continuing one or rather one to be assessed only at the time the action was commenced. Chaisson J.A. resolved that issue, concluding that a plaintiff must only demonstrate that it had sufficient reason to bring the proceeding in the Supreme Court at the time the action was commenced.

[5] The “sufficient reason” referred to in the rule is often, but not invariably, related to whether the anticipated judgment will exceed the monetary jurisdiction of the Provincial Court. If, at the time the action was commenced, there was sufficient reason to conclude that the judgment would likely exceed the Provincial Court’s monetary jurisdiction, then the decision to proceed in this court will usually be found to be justified. There may be other reasons for proceeding in the Supreme Court. Some of those other reasons were identified in Kuehne v. Probstl, 2004 BCSC 865. Where those other reasons are present then, even if the anticipated monetary award is likely to fall within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, there may still be “sufficient reason” to proceed in this court.

[6] In the case at bar, the only basis advanced for proceeding in the Supreme Court is that the reasonably expected award was likely to exceed the monetary jurisdiction of the Provincial Court…

[12] In effect the plaintiff took the position when she launched this action that her frozen shoulder was the consequence of the defendant’s negligence. I am satisfied that she has always honestly believed that. While that conclusion was not free from doubt when the action was launched, it was not an unreasonable position to take at the time. The fact that her own doctor came to share that view is some indication that the position was not unreasonable, even though there is no evidence that she had the benefit of that opinion at the time the action was started.

[13] In summary, I am satisfied that there was sufficient reason for the plaintiff to bring this proceeding in the Supreme Court. The plaintiff is, therefore, entitled to her costs which, given the length of trial and the provisions of Rule 66(29)(b), I set at $6,600 plus disbursements.

In my continued effort to cross reference the current Supreme Court rules with the new Rules of Court that come into force on July 1, 2010 I will note that the Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identical to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.

More on Rule 37B – Offers to Multiple Defendants and Reality of Insurance Discussed

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with several issues under Rule 37B.
In this case (Towson v. Bergman) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 BC motor vehicle collisions, the first in 2002, the second in 2004.    At trial liability was found as against a Defendant in the first trial.  The second case was dismissed.  Leading up to trial the Plaintiff made a formal offer to all of the Defendants for $500,000.  Following trial over $1.1 million dollars in damages were awarded (click here for my previous posting on the trial judgment).
The court was asked to consider whether the Plaintiff can have double costs when her formal settlement offer under Rule 37B was made to multiple defendants.  The liable defendant argued that “the offer under 37B was invalid…because it was made to multiple defendants…and could only have been accepted by all the defendants, including the defendant’s against whom (the Plaintiff’s) claim was eventually dismissed by the court”.
Madam Justice Gray disagreed with this submission and held that there is no reason why costs consequences can’t follow a formal offer made to multiple defendants under Rule 37B.  Her reasoning was as follows:

[59] Aspen Enterprises Ltd. v. Quiding, 2009 BCSC 50, is the only case I located which considered the effect of a global offer to settle made under Rule 37B.  The plaintiffs inAspen argued that Rule 37B is “intended to be broader in application than the former rules, and therefore should apply to global offers”.  They argued that the fact that a global offer has been made should not preclude a court from considering the factors set out in subrule 37B(6) and exercising its discretion to award double costs.

[60] Fenlon J. appeared to accept this argument, although she found, on consideration of 37B(6)(a), that the offer to settle was not one that ought reasonably to have been accepted by the defendants.  The offer as framed could not have been accepted by Aspen or Kingsway without the consent of the other, and without the further consent of Landmark, which was not even a party at trial.

[61] Rule 37B places no restrictions on the court’s discretion in relation to global settlement offers.  The purpose of the rule is to facilitate and encourage reasonable offers to settle.  It requires a settlement offer to be delivered to all parties of record.  The law developed under Rule 37 regarding global offers is of little assistance.  Pursuant to Rule 37B, the consideration for the court pertaining to global settlement offers is whether the offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted.

[62] In considering the effect of an offer to settle on an award for costs under Rule 37B, the court may consider the following factors:

(a)      whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date;

(b)      the relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c)      the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d)      any other factor the court considers appropriate.

[63] The Offer Under 37B was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted by MPS.  Despite the fact that the Offer Under 37 was addressed to all defendants, it was evident at the time that MPS was the party facing the greatest risk of liability to Ms. Towson.  When the Offer Under 37B was made, it was apparent that the liability, if there were any, of Ms. Chan, Mr. Ko, and Mr. Bergman was likely to be very significantly less than the liability of MPS.

[64] Although MPS could not accept the Offer Under 37B on behalf of Ms. Chan, Mr. Ko, or Mr. Bergman, MPS could have agreed to pay the $500,000 in full settlement of the claim against it.  The eventual judgment was for roughly $1.2 million, being more than double the amount Ms. Towson offered to accept.

[65] In this case, Ms. Towson’s award against the single unsuccessful defendant, MPS, is far greater than the amount she offered to accept. Global offers made in circumstances where there is more than one unsuccessful defendant may give rise to different considerations.

[66] Ms. Towson, at the time of trial, was in difficult financial circumstances.  She was unemployed, living with her parents, and receiving social assistance and disability payments.  MPS is a government ministry.  Ms. Towson’s financial circumstances were significantly worse than those of MPS.

[67] In all these circumstances, Ms. Towson is entitled to double costs, although when the double costs should begin is discussed below.

Madam Justice Gray went on to hold that double costs should begin one week following the delivery of the offer as that was a reasonable period for the Defendants to consider their response.

The other Rule 37B issue that was addressed was whether the existence of insurance should be considered when weighing costs consequences.  Our courts are currently split on this issue.  Madam Justice Gray held that Insurance should not be considered and set out the following reasons:

[113] The British Columbia Supreme Court has divided on the issue of whether insurance should be considered in assessing the relative financial circumstances of the parties.  InBailey, Hinkson J. considered that insurance should not be taken into account:

33.       While I accept that it is likely that most drivers in British Columbia are insured by ICBC, the wording of subrule 37B does not invite consideration of a defendant’s insurance coverage. There may be good policy reasons for this. Insurance coverage limits with ICBC are not universal, and will vary from insured to insured. Certain activities may result in a breach of an individual’s insurance coverage, or the defence of an action under a reservation of rights by ICBC. A plaintiff will not and likely should not be privy to such matters of insurance coverage between a defendant and ICBC.

34.       The contest in this case was between the plaintiff and the defendants, and the insurance benefits available to the defendants do not, in my view, fall within the rubric of their financial circumstances, any more than any collateral benefit entitlement that a plaintiff may have would affect that person’s financial circumstances for the purpose of determining their loss.

[114] Conversely, Madam Justice Boyd in Radke v. Perry, 2008 BCSC 1397, 90 B.C.L.R. (4th) 132, did consider the fact that the defendants were insured by ICBC, stating, at para. 42:

It is also clear that there is a substantial disparity in financial circumstances between the parties. The defendants, represented by ICBC, had substantially greater resources to finance a trial than the individual plaintiff. Had the defendants accepted the plaintiff’s initial reasonable offer, the plaintiff would not have had to incur the significant costs associated with nearly two weeks of trial.

[115] Bailey was released on October 16, 2008, six days before the October 22, 2008 release of Radke.  Radke does not refer to Bailey, and Bailey was likely not brought to the court’s attention.

[116] In my view, the reasoning in Bailey should be preferred, and the court should consider the “relative financial circumstances of the parties” without considering the insurance benefits available to the defendant.  Here, however, there was no evidence concerning the insurance benefits available to Ms. Chan and Mr. Ko.

I will continue to post about Rule 37B cases as they come to my intention despite the fact that the current BC Civil Rules are being repealed on July 1, 2010.  The reason for this is after July 1, 2010 formal settlement offers in the BC Supreme Court will be dealt with under Rule 9-1 which has language that is almost identical to the current Rule 37B making these precedents useful.

An Interesting but Short Lived Rule 37B Precedent

Reasons for judgement were transcribed today by the BC Supreme Court giving a new and interesting interpretation to Rule 37B.
In today’s case (Oliver v. Moen) the the Plaintiff sued for personal injuries as a result of a BC Car Crash.  The matter proceeded to trial by Jury.
Leading up to the trial the Plaintiff made a formal offer to settle under the now repealed Rule 37 for $400,000.  The Defendant countered with a formal offer of $100,000.  The Plaintiff then delivered a formal offer under Rule 37B for $185,000.  After 12 days of trial the Jury awarded approximately $14,000 in total damages for the Plaintiffs injuries and losses.
More often than not, when a defendant beats a formal settlement offer at trial they are entitled to costs under Rule 37B and in today’s case the defendant brought an application for such an order.  In an interesting twist, however, Mr. Justice Joyce of the BC Supreme Court declined to award the Defendant costs finding that when the Plaintiff made the formal counter offer of $185,000 this constituted a rejection of the Defendant’s offer.  A rejection of an offer, at common law, takes the offer off the table.  Mr. Justice Joyce held that since this occurred the Defendant did not have a valid offer to settle in existence from the time of the Plaintiff’s offer to settle onward thus the offer ‘cannot be considred under Rule 37B when deciding the issue of costs’
Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:

[12] Satanove J. noted that Rule 37(10) had been repealed when the counteroffer was made and Rule 37B did not contain an analogous provision. Accordingly, the common law rule relating to contract applied. At paras. 8 and 9 Madam Justice Satanove said:

8          Turning then to the common law of contracts, it is trite to say that a counteroffer constitutes non-acceptance of a previous offer. The previous offer must be revived in order to be accepted after a counteroffer has ensued. (United Pacific Capital v. Piché, 2004 BCSC 1524; Cowan v. Boyd (1921), 49 O.L.R. 335 (C.A.)).

9          Applying these principles to the chronology of facts in this case, when the plaintiffs issued the counteroffer of January 6, 2009, they were communicating non-acceptance of the Rule 37B offer of November 28, 2008 from the defendants, and this latter offer was no longer extant. [emphasis added]

[13] On the authority of More Marine, I am driven to conclude that when the plaintiff made its offer of January 30, 2009 that counteroffer constituted non-acceptance of the defendant’s offer of February 25, 2008 and rendered the earlier offer no longer extant because the saving provision of Rule 37(10) was no longer in effect.

[14] As the defendant’s offer was no longer in existence and therefore no longer capable of acceptance it cannot be considered under Rule 37B when deciding the issue of costs. This may seem a harsh result but it is one that, in my opinion, follows from the failure to preserve the saving effect of the former Rule 37(10) in Rule 37B.

[15] The defendant submits that More Marine is distinguishable because in that case the offer in question was made under Rule 37B whereas the defendant’s offer in this case was made under Rule 37 and at a time when the saving provision of Rule 37(10) was in effect. It is my view, however, that one must consider the law as it was when the counteroffer was made on January 30, 2009. At that time there was no enactment in place to alter the common law principle that the defendant had to revive his offer in order to give it effect once again.

[16] The defendant argues, in the alternative, that where no formal offer exists, s. 3 of the Supreme Court Act gives the Court a broad discretion over costs and that in the exercise of that discretion I should award the plaintiff costs up to the date of the defendant’s offer and award costs to the defendant from the date of that offer. The defendant relies on British Columbia v. Worthington (Canada) Inc., [1988] B.C.J. No. 1214 (C.A.). That case was concerned with the discretion of a trial judge to order a party who was successful in the action as a whole to pay the costs of an issue in the action to the party who was successful in that issue but who lost the entire action. That issue does not arise in this case. This case does not concern success on separate issues. Mr. Oliver was successful in his action but the jury saw fit to award him only modest damages.

[17] The usual rule as set out in Rule 57(9) is that the “costs of and incidental to a proceeding shall follow the event unless the court otherwise orders”. Having concluded that there is no offer by the defendant that can be considered under Rule 37B, the defendant has not persuaded me that there is any other circumstance that should cause me to depart from the usual rule.

[18] I therefore award the plaintiff the costs of the entire proceeding at scale B.

As far as I am aware this is a novel interpretation of Rule 37B.

Interesting as this case may be, and whether or not it is a correct interpretation of Rule 37B, the case’s value as a precedent will be short lived.  This case, although transcribed today, was pronounced in June, 2009.   As of July 1, 2009 Rule 37B has been amended adding a subrule which specifically states that “An offer to settle does not expire by reason that a counter offer is made.”   which in effect addresses the courts concerns about the short comings of this rule.

More on Rule 37-B

The first decision that I’m aware of was released today dealing with the costs consequences of accepting a Rule 37 offer under Rule 37B.
The full background facts are not necessary for this narrow post.  In this case the defendants made an offer to settle for $6,000.  This offer was made in compliance with the now repealed Rule 37.  The offer was made (and accepted) while Rule 37 was still in effect.
The parties could not agree to whether a formal settlement was agreed to nor what the costs consequences were.  The Plaintiff applied to court to enforce the settlement.  The court application was not heard until October, 2008 (well after Rule 37 was repealed and replaced with Rule 37B)
Mr. Justice Rogers held that in these circumstances a settlement did exist and that Rule 37B is applicable.
Particularly he noted that:
[10]            Like the parties, I am satisfied that the original claim advanced by the plaintiffs in their statement of claim was settled by the parties’ exchange of offer and acceptance.  There will, therefore, be a declaration that the plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants arising out of the writ and statement of claim have been settled.  There will be a declaration that the settlement price to be paid to each of the plaintiffs is $6,000….

[14]            As to whether Rule 37B applies to the present case, I believe that it does.  I have come to that conclusion because the rule permits the court to consider an offer to settle, including one made under Rule 37 but with respect to which no order has been made, when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs:  Rule 37B(4).  The court’s discretion relating to costs is engaged when a party asks the court to make an order.  In the case of an accepted offer to settle, a party may ask the court for a declaratory order or it may apply for judgment in the terms of the settlement.  Upon such an application, the court will have discretion as to costs with respect to the application itself and with respect to any costs contemplated by the settlement.

[15]            In the present case, the accepted offer did contemplate costs in the plaintiffs’ proceeding.  Those costs were under Rule 37, but that rule has been replaced.  The costs contemplated by the settlement must now be taken to be costs under Rule 37B.  Therefore, the plaintiffs’ present application for a declaration that their action has been settled engages the court’s discretion under Rule 37B with respect to the costs of the application itself, and also of the plaintiffs’ proceeding as a whole.

[16]            As noted above, the plaintiffs argue that the court should exercise its discretion in their favour for those steps taken in the litigation up to the date that the defendants delivered their offers to settle.  The defendants argue that no order for costs should be made until the counterclaim has been concluded.

[17]            Because the issue of the plaintiffs’ costs of the now settled action falls to be decided under Rule 37B, the court must examine that rule to learn what principles will guide its decision.  As to those principles, the new rule says:

(6)        In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a)        whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date;

(b)        the relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c)        the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d)        any other factor the court considers appropriate.

[18]            This provision makes it clear that the Legislature intends the court to at least consider conducting a detailed examination into, among other things:  the circumstances that pertained at various stages of the litigation relating to the party’s knowledge of the strength of its own case and that of its opponent; if the case has gone to trial, the proportionality of the offer to the judgment; and the financial circumstances of all of the parties involved.  Presumably, that detailed examination will be based on some form of properly admissible evidence.

[19]            The scope of the inquiry that the court is expected to make before awarding costs under Rule 37B is, therefore, much wider than was the case under its predecessor rule.  Furthermore, the parties to a piece of litigation have, I think, a legitimate expectation that the court will at least put its mind to the factors set out in Rule 37B(6).  This raises the question of whether there may be cases where the court can properly decline to analyze a case in light of the factors set out in Rule 37B(6).  About that I will say nothing definitive, except that this case does not appear to me to be one in which it would be judicious to ignore Rule 37B(6).

No order as to costs was made in this case because “the parties have not adduced sufficient evidence on this application to permit the court to conduct a detailed examination of the factors outlined in Rule 37B(6).”

This is certainly far from the last of the judicial development of this new settlement rule.  I will continue to post and comment about Rule 37B cases as they are released by the BC Supreme Court.

Rule 37B and ICBC – J. Boyd Considers fact Defendant Insured by ICBC

As you may know Rule 37-B is the new BC rule dealing with formal settlements and costs consequences in the BC Supreme Court.  (to find my previous posts on this case search this cite for ’37B’).
This new rule will take some time to work itself out.  There are already conflicting reasons for judgement addressing whether it is appropriate to look at whether the Defendant is insured when considering costs consequences.
Last week J. Hinkson refused to consider the insurance status of a defendant when deciding whether to award ‘double costs’ after trial.
Reasons for judgement were released today considering the fact that the defendants were ‘represented by ICBC’ when weighing the ‘financial circumstances’ of the parties.
In addition to being the first precedent that has looked at the insurance status of the defendant as a relevant consideration, this case is interesting because it is the first to trigger ‘double costs’ even though a matter settled before judgement.
In this case the Plaintiff alleged a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury after a BC car accident.  She sued and made a formal offer to settle for $500,000 which expired at the start of trial.  The case settled on the 11th day of trial when the defendant’s offered to settle for $1 Million ‘plus assessable costs and disbursements’ less advances paid.  The Plaintiff’s accepted this offer.
The parties could not agree on the costs implications of the settlement were.  The Plaintiff asked for double costs because the Plaintiff’s reasonable settlement offer (which complied with Rule 37B) was rejected and the Plaintiff had to incur significant expense in running 11 days of trial prior to achieving settlement.
The court agreed the Plaintiff was entitled to double costs in these circumstances.  The key finding being made at paragraph 42 which I set out below:
  In the case at bar, on a review of the Rule and the authorities, I conclude that the plaintiff is indeed entitled to double costs from the date of the August 12th offer of settlement forward.  Since the defendants ultimately settled for an amount which was double the plaintiff’s original pre-trial offer, it is clear in my view that her original offer to settle “…was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted”.  Certainly the terms offered in August were far more advantageous to the defendants than the ultimate amount represented by the settlement agreement.  It is also clear that there is a substantial disparity in financial circumstances between the parties.  The defendants, represented by ICBC, had substantially greater resources to finance a trial than the individual plaintiff.  Had the defendants accepted the plaintiff’s initial reasonable offer, the plaintiff would not have had to incur the significant costs associated with nearly two weeks of trial

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