Tag: Rule 14-1(10)

Access to Discovery and Summary Trial "Sufficient Reason" to Sue in Supreme Court


As previously discussed, a litigant who receives less than $25,000 in damages following a Supreme Court trial is dis-entitled to costs unless they have ‘sufficient reason’ to sue in the Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were released today canvassing this area of law.
In today’s case (Mehta v. Douglas) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  He sued and following trial was awarded just over $18,000 in damages.  ICBC argued the Plaintiff should not be awarded costs because he did not have sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Harris disagreed and found that access to examinations for discovery and summary trials were were sufficient for commencing the lawsuit in the Supreme Court.  In awarding the Plaintiff costs the Court provided the following reasons:

[9] I accept the submissions of the plaintiff. In my view, the plaintiff required counsel to present her case. It would be unjust to deny her costs that would permit her partially to defray the expense of retaining counsel. Although it would have been difficult to predict at the outset whether this matter would prove to be suitable for summary determination, the availability of examinations for discovery and the possibility of summary trial are both factors that in the circumstances of this case are sufficient to justify starting the action in this court. The availability of these procedures and their potential to promote a proportionate and efficient use of resources is something that would be known at the outset. In my view, it would be unjust to deprive the plaintiff of costs in circumstances where knowing of those procedures she has subsequently used them efficiently.

[10] Although the plaintiff did not initially plead the injuries that ultimately formed the primary basis of the summary trial, I accept that it is appropriate to be cautious in assessing what could reasonably be predicted as the quantum for a damages claim when the action is started, particularly in the case of an infant. While on the facts that were known concerning the minor nature of the plaintiff’s soft tissue injuries and the speed with which they had resolved, it would have been unlikely that the award would exceed the small claims jurisdiction, but the exact value of the claim nevertheless could not be predicted accurately. Given the uncertainties facing the plaintiff at the time she started the action, it was not unreasonable to start it in this court.

[11] Taking all of these factors into account, I am of the view that the plaintiff had sufficient reason to start this action in this court and accordingly she is entitled to her costs in accordance with Schedule B.

Winners and Losers: More on Costs Consequences and Formal Settlement Offers


How can a Plaintiff who is awarded damages following a personal injury trial end up owing ICBC money?  The answer relates to the costs consequences that can be triggered by formal settlement offers.  I’ve discussed this topic previously and two sets of reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court further demonstrating this reality.
In the first case (Dempsey v. Oh) the Plaintiff was injured in a bicycle accident when he was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $40,000.  As trial neared ICBC increased their formal offer to $165,000.  The Plaintiff rejected this and proceeded to trial.  At trial the Court made some critical findings relating to the Plaintiff’s credibility and awarded damages of just over $20,000.
Following trial ICBC asked for an order pursuant to Rule 9-1(5) that the Plaintiff pay all of the Defendant’s costs following their first formal offer.  The Plaintiff objected to such a result arguing that “if he is ordered to pay the defendant’s costs he will end up owing it money“.  Mr. Justice Myers rejected this argument and ordered that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s post offer costs.  In rejecting the Plaintiff’s submission the Court made the following comment “It is not the court’s function to ensure that a plaintiff makes a net recovery from an action when it has ignored a reasonable offer.  That would defeat the purpose of the Rule and does not accord with common sense”.
On another note, this case is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of Rule 14-1(10).  The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff should be deprived of his pre-offer costs as there was no sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court.   Mr. Justice Myers rejected this argument finding that when the lawsuit was started the Supreme Court was an appropriate venue.  In making this finding the Court provided the following useful reasons:
[11]    In part due to the loss of income, this was a more complicated case than Ghelen.  This action was commenced approximately six months after the accident.  At that point I find it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have commenced the action in this Court because he was reasonably entitled to see the impact of the accident on his prior condition.  There is nothing in the rules which imposes a cost penalty on a party who files its suit quickly after its cause of action arises.  And, in Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, the Court of Appeal held that there is no ongoing obligation on a party to assess his action as it progresses in the Supreme Court in order to consider whether it should be moved to Provincial Court.
In the second case released this week (Miller v. Boughton) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  She sued for damages and her case went before a jury.  The trial lasted 7 days.  Prior to trial ICBC made a series of escalating formal settlement offers starting at $22,000 with the final offer made shortly before trial topping out at $62,500.
The Plaintiff rejected these offers and proceeded to trial.  The Jury found the Plaintiff 45% at fault for the crash and the Defendant 55% at fault.   After taking this split into account the Jury’s award was a modest $3,880.  ICBC’s motion for post offer costs and disbursements was granted.  After factoring these in the Plaintiff likely ended up owing ICBC a significant amount of money.   (UPDATE September 12, 2011 – click here for follow up reasons confirming the Defendant’s costs were assessed at over $42,000)
Cases such as these illustrate the important lesson that formal offers create a “loser pays” system which could result in significant costs swings following trial.  When considering ICBC formal settlement offers it is important to keep this in mind when deciding whether to accept the offer or proceed to trial.

More on ICBC Claims, Costs and Sufficient Reason to Sue in Supreme Court


Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal released important reasons finding that more than value of a claim can be considered in deciding whether a Plaintiff has sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court when considering costs under Rule 14-1(10).   Useful reasons for judgement were released last month  by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this issue in the context of an ICBC Injury Claim.
In last month’s case (Taylor v. Kassa) the Plaintiff was injured in BC motor vehicle collision.  His injuries were modest and it was “readily apparent from the outset that the quantum of damages would fall within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court“.  Despite this he sued for damages in the Supreme Court under the fast track rule.
After examinations for discovery a damages settlement was reached for $15,000.  The parties agreed to ask the Court to address the issue of whether costs should be payable.  Mr. Justice Davies found that given ICBC’s boilerplate response to the lawsuit it was reasonable for the Plaintiff to pursue the claim in Supreme Court with the assistance of counsel therefore entitling the Plaintiff to costs.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
[7] ….I make that ruling because I find it to be significant that this matter did not settle until there had been examinations for discovery.
[8]  The defendants availed themselves of the discovery procedure and then revised their assessment of the case.  Prior to discoveries, there had been a complete denial of liability and causation including allegations of pre-existing injury and failure to mitigate, all of which matters had rendered the case somewhat complex.
[9]  As Justice Punnett said in Spencer at para. 23 and 24

[23] Arguably, at the time the action was started, the claim could have exceeded $25,000. The plaintiff knew her injuries, from which it took her 18 months to substantially recover, caused her pain at work, disturbed her sleep, made her unable to do housework, and decreased her leisure activities. She had missed seven days of work and required numerous visits to a chiropractor and massage therapist. There is no evidence that the plaintiff misled counsel or that her complaints lacked credibility.

[24] Further, even if it was clear that the claim would fall within the Small Claims Court’s jurisdiction, the issues raised by the defendant increased the complexity of the claim and the plaintiff’s need for counsel. By denying liability, causation and that the plaintiff suffered any loss, the plaintiff would have been required to prove these elements at trial. Also, although unnecessary because the matter settled, discovery of the defendant, which had been arranged, could have been important to the plaintiff’s case.

[10]  I am satisfied that this case falls within that same exeption expressed in para. 24 and supports a finding of sufficient reason to commence the action in this case in this Court.
[11]  Discovery was not available in the Provincial Court and led to the settlement of this case.
[12]  There will be an order that the plaintiff recover his costs under the provisions of the fast-track litigation project.
The Taylor decision is unpublished but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests a copy.

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


Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal provided much needed clarity to the factors Courts can consider when deciding whether a Plaintiff has sufficient reasons to sue in the Supreme Court when considering costs consequences following trial.   Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal further addressing this topic finding that while the Court can consider other issues, the value of the claim will be one of the most important factors.
In today’s case (Gehlen v. Ranathe 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.
Despite this result the trial judge awarded the Plaintiff costs and found the Plaintiff has sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  The BC Court of Appeal found this was in error and in doing so provided these reasons addressing the issue of “sufficient reason” to sue in the BC Supreme Court in a personal injury claim:

[35] In Gradek, the Court interpreted the meaning of “sufficient reason” in Rule 57(10).  The Court acknowledged that the procedures available in the Small Claims Court will, in most cases, “enable the parties to proceed in a cost-efficient manner to a just result” (para. 18).

[36] The Court ultimately concluded that “sufficient reason” was not intended by the Legislature to be limited to the quantum as assessed at the outset of the claim.  However, the Court stated, at paras. 16 and 20:

[16]      The words “sufficient reason” are not defined in the Rules of Court.  In their ordinary and grammatical sense, they do not suggest a specific limitation in terms of application, although it is clear that “any reason” will not do.  The reason has to be “sufficient”, but there is nothing in the Rule to suggest that it has to be connected solely to the quantum of the claim.  On the other hand, the words do not connote the exercise of a discretion, with its attendant deferential standard of review.  That point was made by this Court in Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, 72 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1, at para. 13:  …

[20]      I accept that the narrow interpretation of the words “sufficient reason” advocated by the appellant would provide greater certainty to litigants in knowing the consequences of proceeding in Supreme Court where the matter falls within the Small Claims monetary limit.  But I agree with the trial judge that if the Legislature had intended to limit the scope of the words “sufficient reason” to the extent suggested by the appellant, it could readily have done so.  While I am satisfied that the words, “sufficient reason” should not be interpreted in an expansive manner, but with restraint, I am also satisfied that they must be read in such a way that a trial judge is not forced to deny a party costs where he is satisfied, as here, that justice can only be achieved as between the parties by an award of costs to the successful party.

[37] As I understand the import of Gradek, it is that likely quantum, while perhaps the most important factor for determination of sufficient reason, is not the only factor that may be taken into account.  The Court in Gradek also accepted that there may be other circumstances that justify bringing an action in the Supreme Court despite the fact that the likely quantum will not exceed the Small Claims amount.  Thus, in Gradek the Court accepted the trial judge’s finding that Mr. Gradek, due to language difficulties, required the assistance of counsel and it would be unjust to require him to bring his claim in the Small Claims Court where he would be denied costs that would partially offset the expense of retaining counsel (para. 18).  However, it is clear from Gradekthat the burden is on the plaintiff to establish eligible circumstances that are persuasive and compelling to justify “sufficient reason”.

[38] In the case at bar, the plaintiff reiterated before us the 12 reasons submitted to the trial judge to establish sufficient reason to commence the action in the Supreme Court.  However, eight of those reasons were circumstances that arose after the commencement of the action and were thus irrelevant to the analysis (the defendant’s offer to settle; the defendant’s failure to apply to move the action to the Small Claims Court; the defendant’s denial of liability for the plaintiff’s injury; the insurer’s characterization of the collision as low impact; the exchange of 60 documents; the defendant’s motion for a Rule 66 hearing and eventual removal; a Rule 28 examination of a witness; and the absence of expert evidence tendered by the defendant).

[39] The strongest reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court related to the plaintiff’s alleged injuries, but that must be closely examined in light of her pre-existing condition.  While minor impacts do not necessarily preclude serious injuries, it must have been apparent to the plaintiff that after this minor collision her pre-existing condition was only modestly aggravated and would not attract a significant award of damages.

[40] In my opinion, the plaintiff has not identified a compelling circumstance that meets the sufficient reason test in Rule 57(10) as interpreted by Gradek.

[41] In my view, this was a case where it was plain and obvious at all material times that this was a proper action to be tried in the Small Claims Court.

Formal Settlement Offers, Costs, and the Flexibility of the New Rules of Court


Interesting reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the ‘flexibility‘ that the New Rules of Court give Judges in making costs awards following trials where formal settlement offers were made.
In today’s case (Cairns v. Gill) the Plaintiff brought an ‘exaggerated’ personal injury claim to trial following a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  ICBC made an early formal settlement offer in 2006.   ICBC’s offer was modest at just over $1,200 plus costs.   The Plaintiff rejected the offer and proceeded to trial.   The trial did not go well and the Jury largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claim awarding just over $850 in total damages.
Having beaten their formal offer ICBC applied for an order that the Plaintiff pay their post offer Bill of Costs which was expected to exceed $16,000.  Despited the ‘exaggerated’ nature of the claim Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey found that such a result was unjust.  The Court stripped the Plaintiff of her post offer costs and disbursements however did not award ICBC their costs.  In reaching this result the Court provided the following reasons demonstrating the flexible (but perhaps somewhat unpredictable) nature of the current Civil Rules:
[57] The defendants seek costs and disbursements following the date of the offer to settle, despite the plaintiff obtaining judgment.  This is available pursuant to Rule 9-1(5)(d)…

[59] To make such an order would have a very negative effect on the plaintiff, and have the broader effect of further discouraging those with legitimate claims from bringing their actions in this Court when the defendant, funded by an insurer, has deeper pockets with which to bear the risk of a plaintiff achieving only a minor or, indeed, a pyrrhic victory.

[60] It is clear from the rules and the jurisprudence that costs consequences are to guide counsel in litigation decisions.  The object of the Rules is, “to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.”  This object is to be conducted, as far as is practicable, with regard to proportionality.  While this object is frustrated to some extent by a claim worth $851 proceeding to its conclusion at a Supreme Court jury trial where it was more appropriate for determination in Provincial Court, the object and proportionality principle do not appear to accord with the potential cost of litigation in this case.  The bill of costs of the defendants is expected to exceed $16,000.

[61] I note that the Court of Appeal in Giles recognized when dealing with the issue of double costs that “all litigation comes with a degree of risk,” and that, “when faced with settlement offers, plaintiffs must carefully consider their positions.”  However, the court also indicated that plaintiffs, “should not to be cowed into accepting an unreasonable offer out of fear of being penalized with double costs if they are unable to ‘beat’ that offer.”  These considerations also appear relevant in these circumstances.

[62] In this case, pursuing a valid, although exaggerated, personal injury claim to trial, where the offer to settle did not provide a genuine incentive to settle in the circumstances, may, in the face of a defence funded by ICBC, cost the plaintiff almost twenty times what was awarded at trial.  It seems consistent with the object of the Rules generally, and of Rules 9-1 and 14-1(10), to have regard to the need to emphasize litigation decisions that direct cases to the appropriate forum without disproportionately penalizing a party that had some success, however limited.

[63] To this end, as considered in relation to the first issue, Rule 14-1(10) permits the Court to limit a plaintiff to the recovery of disbursements when the amount of the judgment is within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, which I declined to do in this case.  Then, as considered in relation to the second issue, Rule 9-1(5)(a) permits the Court to deprive the plaintiff of any or all of their disbursements after the date of the offer, which I found to be appropriate.  Then, taking the matter even further, Rule 9-1(5)(d) permits the Court to consider requiring the plaintiff to pay the defendants’ costs in respect of some or all of the steps taken after the date of the offer to settle.

[64] This progression demonstrates the flexibility within the overall framework of the rules to craft an order for costs that is appropriate to the circumstances of each case.

[65] In the present case, the plaintiff, although the “successful” party at trial, agreed to forego her costs after the date of service of the offer to settle and is, by virtue of my decision on the second issue, without disbursements from the date of service of the offer to settle, which occurred very early in the proceedings.  To require her to pay all or some of the defendants’ costs after the date of service of the offer to settle, which at the time was an unreasonably low offer, would be excessive and unjust.  It would not be in keeping with the nature of the offer, the relative financial circumstances of the parties, the principle of proportionality, and the need to avoid decisions that inappropriately discourage plaintiffs from pursuing valid claims.

This case is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s length analysis of many authorities to date addressing costs discretion under the new Rules of Court and further addressing important issues such as sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court, and the relevance of suing an insured defendant.

Costs and Sufficient Reason to Sue in the Supreme Court: Clarity from the BCCA


Welcome reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing when a Plaintiff has ‘sufficient reason‘ for suing in the BC Supreme Court.  In short the top BC Court ruled that trial judges can look beyond the value of a claim when addressing this topic.  This issue is important because generally a Plaintiff who succeeds in a Supreme Court lawsuit but is awarded below $25,000 (the current monetary jurisdiction of the BC Provincial Court) will be deprived of costs unless they have ‘sufficient reason‘ for suing in the Supreme Court.
In today’s case (Gradek v. DaimlerChryster Financial) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  His lawsuit was successful and he was awarded damages of just over $9,000.  The trial judge also awarded costs of $6,600.  In doing so the trial judge made the following useful findings when individuals sue an insured defendant:

[42]      The plaintiff is who he is.  As such, he would have had extraordinary difficulty presenting a case on his own.  While the defendant, represented by the insurer, suggested that in Provincial Court it might, at times, be represented by an adjuster, in my view, whether the defendant was represented by an adjuster or a lawyer the plaintiff would have been outmatched.

[43]      In my opinion the plaintiff required counsel to obtain a just result. Costs are not awarded in Provincial Court.  [Emphasis added.]

ICBC Appealed this order arguing that a court can only look at the likely value of a claim when deciding whether there is sufficient reason to sue in the BC Supreme Court.  The Court of Appeal disagreed and dismissed the appeal.  In doing so the Court provided the following useful reasons addressing the scope of ‘sufficient reasons‘ under Rule 14-1(10) of the Civil Rules:

[16]        The words “sufficient reason” are not defined in the Rules of Court.  In their ordinary and grammatical sense, they do not suggest a specific limitation in terms of application, although it is clear that “any reason” will not do.  The reason has to be “sufficient”, but there is nothing in the Rule to suggest that it has to be connected solely to the quantum of the claim.  On the other hand, the words do not connote the exercise of a discretion, with its attendant deferential standard of review.  That point was made by this Court in Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, 72 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1, at para. 13:

[13]      At the outset, I observe that the application of Rule 57(10) does not involve an exercise of discretion.  For a plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court to recover more than disbursements, the court must make a finding that there was sufficient reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court.

[17]        In support of its position, the appellant relies on the nature and purpose of the legislative scheme which, he submits, reflect an intention on the part of the Legislature to confine the meaning of the words “sufficient reason” to reasons relating only to quantum as assessed at the outset of the claim.  In that respect, it is common ground that the primary purpose of denying costs in the Supreme Court to those with monetary claims of $25,000 or less is to encourage claimants to bring their claims in Small Claims Court, with its simplified procedures and greater accessibility to judicial dispute resolution.  Litigating in the Supreme Court when the amount of money involved is relatively small can be prohibitive for both the “winner” and the “loser”.

[18]        I am in general agreement with the appellant’s submission in its factum (at para. 33) that the object of the small claims procedures set out in the Small Claims Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 430 and Rules, B.C. Reg. 261/93 is “to provide parties, and lay litigants, in particular with an easily understandable, flexible, and less costly alternative to the Supreme Court”.  I am also prepared to accept that, in most cases, the pre-trial procedures, including pre-trial disclosure of documents and expert reports, mediation services, settlement conferences and recovery of such reasonable expenses as interpreter fees, provided in the Provincial Court, will enable the parties to proceed in a cost-efficient manner to a just result.  But, that will not always be the case.  In this instance, for example, the trial judge was satisfied that Mr. Gradek’s circumstances required the assistance of counsel to obtain a just resolution of his claim.  It is implicit in his reasons that he considered that it would be unjust to find that Mr. Gradek require counsel to properly present his claim, on the one hand, and to deny him costs which would partially offset the expense of retaining counsel, on the other.  It was on this basis, in part, that he found there was “sufficient reason” within the meaning of Rule 57(10) to bring the action in the Supreme Court with its attendant relief for the successful party in costs.

[19]        Without endorsing all of the factors relied on by the trial judge as constituting “sufficient reason” in this case, I am satisfied that there may be circumstances which may constitute sufficient reason for bringing an action in the Supreme Court, thereby triggering its costs provisions, despite the fact that it is apparent from the outset that the award will fall within the monetary jurisdiction of the Provincial Court.  It is open to a defendant who believes that the claim should not have been brought in the Supreme Court to apply under s. 15 of the Supreme Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 443, to have the matter transferred to the Provincial Court.  Alternatively, if the matter proceeds in the Supreme Court, it is open to the defendant to ask that a successful plaintiff be denied costs on the basis that there was not sufficient reason to bring the action in the Supreme Court in the first instance.

[20]        I accept that the narrow interpretation of the words “sufficient reason” advocated by the appellant would provide greater certainty to litigants in knowing the consequences of proceeding in Supreme Court where the matter falls within the Small Claims monetary limit.  But I agree with the trial judge that if the Legislature had intended to limit the scope of the words “sufficient reason” to the extent suggested by the appellant, it could readily have done so.  While I am satisfied that the words, “sufficient reason” should not be interpreted in an expansive manner, but with restraint, I am also satisfied that they must be read in such a way that a trial judge is not forced to deny a party costs where he is satisfied, as here, that justice can only be achieved as between the parties by an award of costs to the successful party.

Costs Awarded To Plaintiff Following Successful Part 7 Action of "Limited Monetary Value"


As previously discussed, if a Plaintiff successfully sues in the BC Supreme Court and is awarded damages under $25,000 (the current monetary limit of the BC Small Claims Court) the Plaintiff will not be entitled to costs unless they had ‘sufficient reason‘ for suing in Supreme Court.  Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BCSC, New Westminster Registry, addressing this issue after a Part 7 Benefits trial.
In today’s case (Derbyshire v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.   She was employed as a commercial painter and as a result of the crash became disabled from her own occupation.  She was insured with ICBC who provided one week of disability benefits and then refused to reinstate these.
The Plaintiff’s treating GP and a rheumatologist supported the fact that the Plaintiff was disabled.  ICBC obtained an ‘independent medical examination report‘ from an orthopaedic surgeon who concluded that the Plaintiff “should have been able to have resumed her previous level of activity” within 8 weeks of the crash.
The Plaintiff sued in the Supreme Court and ultimately was successful with Mr. Justice Saunders finding that ICBC was wrong in cutting off the Plaintiff’s rehabiliaiton and disability benefits.  The total value of the Plaintiff’s claim by the time of trial was well below $25,000 however the Court went on to award costs finding that Plaintiffs suing for on-going benefits under Part 7 have sufficient reason to sue in the Suprene Court.   Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:
I accept what Mr. Cabanos says regarding the apparent, at this point, potentially limited monetary value of the claim being within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, but Mr. Milne is quite correct that the test for costs is whether it was appropriate to bring this action and this application in Supreme Court.  In my view, it was appropriate given the indeterminate size of the total benefits that could be granted to the claimant over the entire course of her disability and it was further appropriate with respect to the summary disposition mechanisms that are available in this court, the alternative in Provincial Court only being a full trial.

New Rules Caselaw Update: Costs and "Substantial Success" in the BC Supreme Court


The New BC Supreme Court Rule 14-1(9) states that a successful party in a proceeding “must be awarded” costs unless the court otherwise orders.  The former Rule 57(9) dealt with this issue although it had slightly different wording.
Today reasons for judgement were released, for what I believe is the first time, dealing with and interpreting the new rule.
In today’s case (Aschenbrenner v. Yahemich) the Plaintiffs sued the Defendants for trespass, nuisance, defamation and other matters.  Ultimately they succeeded in some of their claims and were awarded just over $5,500 in total damages.  The Plaintiffs applied for an order of costs.  The Defendant opposed arguing that the costs award would be worth more than the awarded damages.
Ultimately Mr. Justice Metzger sided with the Plaintiffs and awarded them most of their costs.  In doing so the Court adopted authorities developed under the former rules.  Mr. Justice Metzger provided the following reasons discussing when a party is entitled to costs under Rule 14-1(9):

[12] Rule 14-1(9) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules states that:

(9)        Subject to subrule (12), costs of a proceeding must be awarded to the successful party unless the court otherwise orders.

[13] While the Rule itself does not include the term “substantial success” under the former Rule 57(9), it was held to be a necessary and sufficient condition for an award of costs under Rule 57(9) that success in the outcome of the trial be “substantial”: see Gold v. Gold, 82 B.C.L.R. (2d) 180, 32 B.C.A.C. 287.

[14] In Fotheringham v. Fotheringham, 2001 BCSC 1321 at para. 18, 108 A.C.W.S. (3d) 786, appeal to C.A. refused, 2002 BCCA 454, 172 B.C.A.C. 179, Bouck J. stated that a trial judge has absolute and unfettered discretion with respect to costs, but it ought not to be exercised against a successful party except for some good reason in connection with the case.

[15] Mr. Justice Bouck canvassed the factors to be considered with respect to Rule 57(9), and at para. 45 stated:

[45] Gold now seems to say that substantial success in an action should be decided by the trial judge looking at the various matters in dispute and weighing their relative importance. The words “substantial success” are not defined. For want of a better measure, since success, a passing grade, is around 50% or better, substantial success is about 75% or better. That does not mean a court must descend into a meticulous mathematical examination of the matters in dispute and assign a percentage to each matter. Rather, it is meant to serve as a rough and ready guide when looked at all the disputed matters globally.

[16] Mr. Justice Bouck then sets out a four step inquiry to determine whether or not to award costs after a trial at para. 46:

1.         First, by focusing on the “matters in dispute” at the trial. These may or may not include “issues” explicitly mentioned in the pleadings.

2.         Second, by assessing the weight or importance of those “matters” to the parties.

3.         Third, by doing a global determination with respect to all the matters in dispute and determining which party “substantially succeeded,” overall and therefore won the event.

4.         Fourth, where one party “substantially succeeded,” a consideration of whether there are reasons to “otherwise order” that the winning party be deprived of his or her costs and each side then bear their own costs.

(See also: Citta Construction v. Elizabeth Lane Holdings Ltd., 2004 BCSC 280, 129 A.C.W.S. (3d) 46 at para. 7.)

[17] Substantial success is not determined by counting up the number of issues and allocating success on each, or by comparing the dollar amounts, but by assessing success in the major issues of substance (Cohen v. Cohen, 1995 Carswell 608, 15 R.F.L. (4th) 84 (B.C.C.A.) at para. 4; Reilly v. Reilly, [1996] B.C.J. No. 1244 (S.C.); Rattenbury v. Rattenbury, 2001 BCSC 593, [2001] B.C.J. No. 889 at paras. 22-24, 33). Substantial success means success on 75% of the matters globally taking into account the weight of the issues and their importance to the parties. A court should compare the pleadings and the submissions with the actual results obtained by the parties (Rattenbury at para. 24.).

[18] In cases where one party achieves substantial success, the courts may award a portion of the substantially successful party’s costs. For example, in Newstone v. Newstone, [1994] B.C.J. No. 139, 2 R.F.L. (4th) 129 (C.A.), an award of one-half costs to a party was upheld where “[s]uccess, if it could be called that, lay more with the wife than with the husband …” One-half costs were also upheld in Rolls v. Rolls, [1996] B.C.J. No. 292, 20 R.F.L. (4th) 232 (C.A.), on the ground that such an award would not create an imbalanced judgment as much as would a full award. InCohen v. Cohen, a spouse was awarded 75% of her costs after success on her reapportionment claim, which was the largest and most time-consuming issue.

[19] The four step test identified by Bouck J. applies not only to matrimonial cases, but also to all types of cases where Rule 14-1(10) has application (Chaster (Guardian ad litem of) v. LeBlanc, 2008 BCSC 47, 164 A.C.W.S. (3d) 43 at para. 34).

[20] Where success is divided such that there is no substantially successful party, the parties may have to bear their own costs (Mari v. Mari, 2001 BCSC 1848, [2001] B.C.J. No. 2979).

[21] On a global view of the outcome of this litigation I find that the plaintiffs were substantially successful.

Defendant Refused Costs at Trial For Failing to Consent to Small Claims Court Transfer


Reasons for judgement were released today addressing whether a Defendant who beat a formal settlement offer should be awarded costs.
In today’s case (Cue v. Breitkruez) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision.  He sued the rear motorist for damages.  Prior to trial the Defendant made a formal settlement offer for $1.  With liability being hotly contested the Plaintiff proposed that the case be transferred to Small Claims Court.  The Defendant refused to consent stating that “such a transfer would result in greater delay“.
At trial the Plaintiff’s case was dismissed with a finding that the Plaintiff was responsible for the collision.  (You can click here to read my summary of the trial judgement).  The Defendant then applied to be awarded double costs pursuant to Rule 9-1(5) because they beat their formal offer at trial.
Mr. Justice Smith dismissed the application noting that since Rule 14-1(10) generally restricts Plaintiff’s awarded an amount within the small claims court jurisdiction from being awarded trial costs that the Defendant should be refused costs for not agreeing to have the case heard in Provincial Court.  Specifically Mr. Justice Smith noted as follows:

7]             The matter remained in this court subject to an agreement to still limit the claim to what could be awarded in Provincial Court. Had my liability decision been different and the matter proceeded to an assessment of damages, Rule 14-1(10) would have been a bar to an award of any costs, other than disbursements, in favour of the plaintiff.  In my view, fairness requires that the same limitation apply to the successful defendant, particularly as the defendant did not agree to the proposed transfer to Provincial Court.

[8]             I therefore decline to award any costs to the defendant, other than disbursements.  There is therefore no need to consider the offer to settle because there are no costs to double.

Mild Soft Tissue Injury Valued at $4,000; BC Supreme Court Rule 14 Discussed

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing the value of non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for a mild soft tissue injury.
In this week’s case (Brar v. Kaur) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 rear end collision.  Prior to trial the responsible motorist admitted fault for the crash.  The matter proceeded to court under the “summary trial” rule where the evidence was presented by affidavits.   The evidence established that the Plaintiff suffered a fairly minor soft tissue injury in the crash.  Mr. Justice Truscott awarded the Plaintiff $4,000 for his non-pecuniary damages and in doing so made the following comments about the severity of the injury and the difficulty in valuing a case without hearing live testimony from the Plaintiff:
[42] It is near to impossible to assess credibility on a summary judgment application supported only by affidavits. The plaintiff’s injuries were only soft tissue injuries caused by a very minor accident and those complaints were subjectively based and not objectively verifiable. Accordingly the Court must be cautious in accepting his complaints as proven.

[43]         However Dr. Sandhu does not suggest in his report the plaintiff is not to be believed on his complaints or even suggest that he is exaggerating. He appears to have accepted the plaintiff’s complaints as legitimate and consistent with the mechanism of the accident and I likewise am prepared to accept the complaints of the plaintiff as stated in his affidavit and as reported to Dr. Sandhu.

[44]         I am prepared to conclude that the plaintiff sustained mild soft tissue injuries to his neck and back areas. While Dr. Sandhu says the plaintiff was fully recovered in six months I observe that Dr. Sandhu’s last report of complaints from the plaintiff was on May 17, 2007, only five months after the accident. Thereafter it does not appear the plaintiff saw Dr. Sandhu again until over one year later and then it was for unrelated issues…

[54] I award the plaintiff $4,000 for non-pecuniary damages as his injuries lasted slightly longer than the injuries of the plaintiffs in Saluja and Bagasbas.

This case is also the first that I am aware of to apply the New BC Supreme Court Rule 14-1(10).  This rule prevents a Plaintiff who is awarded below $25,000 from being awarded costs unless they have “sufficient reason” to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Truscott held that the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court because “he could never have reasonably expected to obtain an amount in excess of the Small Claims jurisdiction“.

Mr. Justice Truscott applied this rule consistently with precedents developed under the old Rule 57(10) which reads identically to the new rule.  I should also point out that the BC Court of Appeal is expected to address the issue of whether Plaintiff’s in ICBC claims worth below $25,000 have sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court due to the “institutional” nature of ICBC and this upcoming judgement should add welcome clarity to this area of the law.

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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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