If a BC Supreme Court Judgement is silent with respect to costs following trial the default Loser Pays system kicks in as a result of Rule 14-1(9). Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this default position.
In last week’s case (Habib v. Jack) the Plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit was dismissed following trial. The trial Judge’s reasons did not set out any costs order. The Defendant sought their costs but the Plaintiff opposed this arguing that silence on costs in the trial judgement makes the issue ‘res judicata’. Madam Justice Ross disagreed and provided the following short but useful reasons: The plaintiff’s res judicata argument has previously been considered and rejected by this court. In Graham v. Great West Life et al., 2004 BCSC 1544, Sinclair Prowse J. considered the argument that silence in earlier reasons for judgment regarding costs is tantamount to an order that there will not be an order for costs. After reviewing the authorities she found that if reasons are silent, by operation of Rule 57(9), there is a presumption that costs will follow the event unless either party objects to the order being framed in that manner, in which case an application for costs should be made to the court. The present Rule 14-1(9) contains the same presumption.
As previously discussed, BC has a true ‘loser pays‘ system which generally requires the loser of a lawsuit to pay the winners costs. If a Defendant makes a formal settlement offer and defeats the Plaintiff’s lawsuit the Court has the discretion to award double costs. Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, refusing to make such an order in circumstances where the formal offer was little more than a walk-away offer.
In last week’s case (Habib v. Jack) the Plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger in the Defendant’s bus. The parties agreed on the value of the Plaintiff’s injuries but disagreed on the issue of fault. Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $1,000. The Plaintiff rejected this offer, proceeded to trial, and had her claim dismissed.
ICBC was awarded costs and asked the Court to award double costs pursuant to Rule 9-1(5). Madam Justice Ross refused to do so noting that the offer was ‘nominal’ and that it was not unreasonable for the Plaintiff to have her day in court. The court provided the following helpful reasons:
The defendants submit that having regard to the factors enumerated in the Rule, the court ought to award double costs. Counsel submits that the offer was not nominal; it gave the plaintiff modest recovery and represented a willingness to compromise that the Rule is meant to foster. The offer was made at a time when the discoveries of both parties were complete and the evidence was known. The plaintiff’s position is that this was a nuisance offer and it cannot be said, without applying hindsight, that it ought to have been accepted.
At the time the offer was made, it was clear that the plaintiff had suffered an injury. There was a dispute with respect to liability. Mr. Jack had limited recollection. The only two witnesses were Ms. Habib and Mr. Jack.
In my view the offer was nominal given Ms. Habib’s injury. I agree with the observations of Burnyeat J. in Martin v Lavigne and Neufeld (Costs), 2010 BCSC 1610 at para. 13, that there are situations in which a nominal offer should have been accepted. However, in my view this is not such a case. It cannot be said that it was clear that the action had little chance of succeeding on the merits. Rather, there was a significant risk that the case would be lost on liability. This risk materialized and the action was lost at trial; however, in the circumstances it was not unreasonable for the plaintiff to reject the offer and proceed to trial.
On balance I have concluded that this is not a case to make an order for double costs as sought by the defendants based upon the offer to settle. In the result, the defendants will have their costs.
Earlier this year the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement finding that when a Defendant succeeds in a lawsuit and is awarded costs the order is for their benefit not their insurer. In short the Court held that ICBC has no subrogated right to costs awards under section 84(1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, taking an opposite view of this issue.
In this week’s case (Habib v. Jack) the Plaintiff was injured while riding on a bus. She sued the bus driver and bus company but had her claim dismissed at trial. The Defendant was awarded costs with Madam Justice Ross giving ICBC the benefit of this costs award. The Court provided the following brief reasons: In the result, the defendants will have their costs. Under s. 84(1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”) is subrogated to its insured and is entitled to recover the costs to which the insured would be entitled. Accordingly, ICBC is entitled to recover the costs awarded to the defendants.
Given the contradictory recent court findings on this issue I suspect the BC Court of Appeal will be asked to weigh in on the topic of insurers subrogated rights to costs following the successful defence of a lawsuit.
When a Bus Driver is involved in an at-fault collision causing injury to the passengers a suit for damages can usually be brought. What if there is no collision but instead the bus driver makes an abrupt move causing injury to the passengers, can a suit succeed on these facts? Depending on the circumstances the answer is yes. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this area of the law.
In this week’s case (Habib v. Jack) the Plaintiff was injured while riding on a bus in Burnaby, BC. The Plaintiff testified that the driver went over a speed bump and that “her seat cushion slid out from under her and she became briefly airborne during which time her neck snapped forward and back“. The Court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit finding that the Defendant drove the bus appropriately. Prior to making this finding Madam Justice Ross provided the following useful discussion addressing this area of the law:
The standard of care owed by a transit operator to a passenger was addressed in Day v. Toronto Transportation Commission,  S.C.R. 433. Justice Hudson described the duty as follow:
Although the carrier of passengers is not an insurer, yet if an accident occurs and the passenger is injured, there is a heavy burden on the defendant carrier to establish that he had used all due, proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger. The care required is of a very high degree: 4 Hals., p. 60, paras. 92 and 95. In an old case of Jackson v. Tollett [(1817) 2 Starkie 37], the rule was stated by Lord Ellenborough, at p. 38, as follows:
Every person who contracts for the conveyance of others, is bound to use the utmost care and skill, and if, through any erroneous judgment on his part, any mischief is occasioned, he must answer for the consequences.
In this province, Madam Justice Humphries summarized the principles to be applied in Lawson v. B.C. Transit, 2002 BCSC 1438, as follows at paragraph 18:
As set out in Wang v. Harrod, supra, once an accident has occurred, the defendant must meet the heavy burden of establishing that he used all proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger. The standard of care imposed is the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances. The court must consider the experience of an average bus driver, as well as anything that the particular driver knew or should have known about the passenger. The standard of care required is higher when the driver knew or ought to have known that the passenger was handicapped or elderly.
Mr. Justice Berger in Sawatsky v. Romanchuk,  B.C.J. No. 964 (S.C.) noted that:
…this is not a case where negligence has been established. I say that because, though the bus lurched as it started up, it was a lurch that she, as someone who had travelled on the buses for twenty years had experienced in the past. Anyone who travels on the buses must expect that from time to time the movement of the buses will not be smooth and uneventful. Lurches are part of the movement of these buses and something that the people who travel on the buses learn to expect. Accidents do happen. And there are bound to be some accidents on the bus system. And some of them, like this accident, will not give rise to a right to damages.
Madam Justice Ross goes on to cite about a dozen other cases dealing with Bus Passenger injuries in BC making this week’s case a good starting point in researching bus driver liability for injury to passengers.
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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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