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Tag: Madan Justice Fitzpatrick

Bullock Orders and Judicial Discretion

As previoulsy discussed, when a Plaintiff sues 2 parties and succeeds only against one the Court had a discretion under Rule 14-1(18) to order that the unsuccessful defendant pay the successful defendants costs.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating the flexibility of this discretion in action.
In last week’s case (Bakker v. Nahanee) the Plaintiff was injured when struck by a stolen vehicle being driven by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sued for damages and, as is customary in BC, also sued the Registered owner of the vehicle alleging vicarious liability pursuant to section 86 of BC’s Motor Vehicle Act. As the lawsuit progressed it became clear that the at fault vehicle was indeed stolen making the vicarious liability claims untenable.
Ultimately the action was dismissed against the owner and a settlement was reached with respect to the claim against the driver.  The Plaintiff applied for an order that the Driver pay the costs of the successful owner.  Madam Justice Fitzpatrick agreed such a result was justified but only until the examination for discovery phase where it was obvious that the vicarious liability claims would not succeed.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[40] Supreme Court Civil Rule 14-1 (18) provides that the Court may exercise its discretion in ordering that the costs of one defendant be paid by another defendant:

If the costs of one defendant against a plaintiff ought to be paid by another defendant, the court may order payment to be made by one defendant to the other directly, or may order the plaintiff to pay the costs of the successful defendant and allow the plaintiff to include those costs as a disbursement in the costs payable to the plaintiff by the unsuccessful defendant…

[52] It is not a novel concept that when preparing pleadings, all parties who are potentially liable should be included where a valid cause of action can be reasonably advanced. This applies equally in the arena of motor vehicle litigation. In this respect, Mr. Bakker also relied on the evidence of Mr. David Kolb, a Vancouver lawyer who practices in this area. He states that an owner of the vehicle in question is always named as a defendant arising from the statutory vicarious liability under the Motor Vehicle Act. He goes on to state that even if the car was purportedly stolen, it is wise to err on the side of caution and name all parties until further investigations are done to ensure that all facts are known before the owner is released from the litigation. He cites as an example, that while the driver/thief and the owner may have different names, further investigations may in fact reveal that they were related and resided together, in which case the owner would be liable even if a stolen vehicle is involved. There may also be issues of fraud or improper motive on the part of the owner who reported the vehicle as stolen. Until such facts as may establish liability are ruled out, it is a prudent practice to name the owner.

[53] In these circumstances, as a general proposition, I am of the view that Mr. Bakker was reasonable in naming Ms. Ang and GMAC as defendants to this action…

[77] In my view, and exercising my discretion, the granting of a Bullock order is appropriate in the circumstances but the order should be limited, similar to that which was ordered in Cominco at 212. Accordingly, Mr. Bakker is entitled to a Bullock order but only in respect of the costs incurred up to and including the examination for discovery of Ms. Ang on September 20, 2007. By that time, Mr. Bakker’s counsel had elicited sufficient evidence from Ms. Ang to be satisfied that she and GMAC had no vicarious liability and that there were no mechanical issues relating to the vehicle. Beyond September 20, 2007, I am unable to say that it would be just or fair to fix Mr. Nahanee with the costs of Ms. Ang and GMAC.