Tag: fast track trials

Costs Awards For Settlements Below $100,000


(Note: The case discussed below was upheld on appeal in July, 2011 by Madam Justice Ker)
As previously discussed, Rule 15 is the new BC Fast Track Litigation Rule and it is mandatory for cases for damages seeking less than $100,000 and for cases that “can be completed within 3 days“.
Rule 15-1(15) generally limits costs awards for fast track lawsuits to no more than $11,000.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether this limit applies to non-fast track cases that settle for less than $100,000.  In short, Master Keighley held that it can, however, when a case has been removed from the fast track the costs restriction does not apply.
In today’s case (Johnson v. Axten) the Plaintiff started the lawsuit under the former Rule 68.  The parties consented to remove the case from Rule 68 prior to trail and obtained a Court order to that effect.  The case then settled after the new Rule 15 came into force.  The settlement was for $90,000 plus costs and disbursements.  The Defendant argued that the Rule 15 cap on costs should apply.  Master Keighley disagreed finding that while it could apply, it should not in the circumstances of this case.  The Court provided the following useful reasons:

[17]         The Majewska case does, however, contain this helpful observation on the issue of “opting out” of Rule 66, at para. 34:

Moreover, it is important to recognize that parties to a R. 66 action are not compelled to remain in the fast track process. If the spectre of “special circumstances” emerges at any time during the action, whether in the form of complex issues, offers to settle, increased trial time, or any other situation, the parties may consent to removing the case from R. 66, or obtain an order to that effect under R. 66(8). Thus, if a concern arises that costs under R. 66(29) will not be adequate, this can be remedied by taking appropriate action during the proceeding.

and at para. 36:

“Here, if the plaintiff was concerned that R. 66 was no longer appropriate, the proper response was to apply for removal from the fast track litigation. If she chose not to take that step, she should have no basis for complaint that her costs are limited by R. 66(29).”

[18]         In other words, a party who opted out of Rule 66 prior to trial was not limited by Rule 66(29). It is noteworthy that Rule 68, which governed this action prior to the parties “opting out” contained no limitation on costs. Also noteworthy is that Rule 15?1 as well as the case with its predecessors, provides for opting out of the provisions for the Rule and in this case the parties did so.

[19]         Ms. Deane-Cloutier says that although Rule 15-1 does not, on its face, contemplate settlement, neither did Rule 66(29), but that did not prevent the court from holding that the subrule applied to settlement of cases governed by the Rule. That submission, with respect, ignores however the very clear statement of the Court of Appeal in Majewska: that once Rule 66 ceased to apply to an action, a party would not be limited to costs recoverable under Rule 66(29).

[20]         The plaintiff’s costs will be assessed pursuant to Schedule B of the Supreme Court Civil Rules. While I agree that Rule 15-1(1) provides that cost limitations apply to cases which were not “fast tracked” but should have been (regardless of the intentions of the parties), the rule nonetheless provides that even if otherwise applicable, it will not apply to cases where the court has ordered that it will cease to apply. The court did so here, with the consent of the parties and, as a result, the cost limitation set out in Rule 15-1, does not apply.

Getting Your Time Estimate Right For Trial


Ask any Judge or Lawyer whose spent time in the BC Court System and they’ll tell you that it is important not to underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to have your matter heard in Court.  If you do you will run the risk of having your case struck off the list and reset for a later date.  Sometimes the matter can be put off well into the future, be it a trial or a chambers application.  Reasons for judgement were published this week on the BC Supreme Court website demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Smith v. Bregt) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  She elected to prosecute her case under the BC Supreme Court Fast Track Rule.  One of the current requirements of the current fast track rule (rule 66) is that the trial must be completed within two days.  As the trial got underway it became clear that it could not be completed in two days.  The Defence lawyer brought a motion seeking to have the case removed from the Fast Track.  Madam Justice Dorgan granted the motion, declared a mistrial and ordered that the trial be reset for a later time.  In reaching this conclusion the Court gave the following reasons:

[10] By the endorsement of her pleadings, the plaintiff opted for the Rule 66 trial process.  That signals that the case is suitable to be tried within 2 days.  It is then incumbent upon the plaintiff to tailor its case to fit into the 2day estimate.  The defendant has relied on the endorsement.  So has the administration in that the endorsement impacts the timing of other trials.

[11] If I order that the rule no longer applies, I assume the plaintiff will not get a trial date for some time.  Neither counsel has given me any information from the trial co-ordinator’s office as to what dates are available.  The plaintiff is geared up.  She has given her evidence-in-chief.  Trial preparation is completed.  She clearly wants this matter resolved.  She wants to proceed, to continue, and I can appreciate that.

[12] On the other hand, the defendants submit the plaintiff has taken her own case out of the provisions of Rule 66 by the first witness called, and the defendants argue that the court must enforce the rule with an eye to its purpose.  And, as Mr. Penner pointed out, by a plaintiff’s Rule 66 endorsement a defendant loses his/her right to a trial with a jury.

[13] Because the whole trial agenda timetable is completely out of whack, people will be inconvenienced whether or not the trial proceeds under Rule 66.

[14] Having considered this carefully, I am of the view that the purpose of the rule will be thwarted entirely if the application of the defendants is dismissed.  The interests of justice and fairness to the parties require that a plaintiff, who elects to proceed pursuant to Rule 66, must put its case in within 2 days, barring consent of the parties or reasonably unforeseeable circumstances arising since the trial agenda was filed and leave of the court.

[15] The defendants do not consent to the trial now continuing to completion, which I conclude will require at least 2 more days.  No reasonably unforeseen circumstances have emerged. The endorsement by the plaintiff is the plaintiff’s chance to proceed under Rule 66.  The manner in which the plaintiff has proceeded or the way the case has unfolded leads me to conclude that the case is inappropriate for Rule 66.

[16] In conclusion, pursuant to Rule 66(8), I order that Rule 66 ceases to apply to this action.  I declare a mistrial and order that the trial be placed on the trial list and that I am not seized.

As my readers know, Rule 66 is being abolished as of July 1, 2010, and is being replaced with a new Fast Track Rule known as Rule 15. Rule 15 appears to be mandatory for all personal injury claims with a trial time estimate of 3 days or less.  Like Rule 66 it limits time for discovery to 2 hours and takes away the parties right to a Jury Trial.

The rule relied on in the above case permitting a Court to remove a trial from the Fast Track remains in place under the New Rules and is reproduced at Rule 15-1(8).  Accordingly this case will likely continue to remain a useful precedent under the New Rules and lawyers and litigants themselves should be cautioned to err on the side of overestimating the length of their trials to avoid a result like this one.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
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