Tag: Insurance

Insurance Policy Limits Relevant to Formal Settlement Offer Costs Analysis


In 2010 the BC Court of Appeal found that Judges could consider the existence of insurance when exercising costs discretion following a trial in which a formal settlement offer was made.  Last week reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, expanding on this principle finding that the limits of insurance coverage were equally applicable.
In last week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff suffered brain trauma after being struck by a motorist while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003.  At trial the motorist was found 90% at fault for the crash with the Ministry of Transportation shouldering the remaining 10% for designing the intersection with inadequate lighting.
Following trial the Plaintiff applied for double costs as the trial result exceeded a pre-trial formal settlement offer she made.   The Defendant wished to place information relating to his insurance policy limits before the Court before a costs decision was made.  In finding this was appropriate Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[6] Rule 7-1(4) reads:

(4)        Despite subrule (3), information concerning the insurance policy must not be disclosed to the court at trial unless it is relevant to an issue in the action.

[7] Subrule (3) requires a party to list in his or her list of documents insurance policies that, generally speaking, might be available to satisfy a judgment in whole or in part should the judgment be entered.

[8] Mr. Lee has responded by arguing that the trial is over (subject, of course, to an application to re-open prior to entry of judgment), and even if the trial is not at an end, his policy limits are now relevant to an issue in the action, being costs. That relevance can fall under one or more of the considerations set out in Rule 9?1(6).

[9] Counsel for the Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MoTH) disagrees as to the relevance of Mr. Lee’s insurance limits.

[10] I have concluded that the amount of Mr. Lee’s automobile liability insurance limits is relevant to the considerations set out in Rule 9-1(6). The amount of available insurance could affect the question whether the offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, and it could also affect the weighing of the relative financial circumstances of the parties.

[11] Counsel for Mr. Lee is authorized and directed to disclose the amount of Mr. Lee’s liability insurance limits operative at the time of the accident.

BCCA Finds Courts Can Consider Insurance Under Rule 37B


Very important reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Court of Appeal addressing a key factor under Rule 37B.
By way of brief introduction Rule 37B is the current rule dealing with formal settlement offers.   (Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 next month but the new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B).
The Court can take formal settlement offers into account when awarding a party costs.  One factor the Court can consider in deciding whether to award costs or increased costs under Rule 37B is “the relative financial circumstances of the parties“.
In most personal injury lawsuits Defendants are insured such that they don’t have a significant financial stake in the outcome of the trial.  BC Supreme Court judges have been conflicted in whether insurance is a relevant consideration when viewing the financial circumstances of the parties.  Today the BC Court of Appeal addressed this issue for the first time.
In today’s case (Smith v. Tedford) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Before trial the Plaintiff made a formal settlement offer.   Several days into trial the Defendant accepted the offer.   The parties could not agree on the costs consequences.  The trial judge awarded the Plaintiff costs to the time the offer was made and double costs for the time spent at trial.  (You can click here to read my post summarizing the trial judge’s reasons).  In doing so the Judge considered the fact that the Defendant was insured with ICBC as relevant to his ‘financial circumstances“.
ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, appealed arguing that the Judge was wrong to consider insurance.   In a welcome development the BC Court of Appeal found as follows:
While I recognize arguments over the implications of a defendant’s insurance coverage being considered in relation to an award of costs may go back and forth, like the judge I consider precluding such from consideration renders an assessment of the parties’ relative financial circumstances, at least in a case of this kind, very artificial indeed. Clearly, with ICBC having assumed the defence, the financial ability to defend was much greater than the financial ability to prosecute, and that is of no small importance to considering whether and to what extent the financial circumstances of the parties, relative to each other, bear on an award of costs where, as here, there has been an offer of settlement made ten days before a trial for the assessment of personal injury damages which was not accepted until the seventh day of the trial.

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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.

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