Tag: Rule 14-1(10)

More on ICBC Injury Claims and "Sufficient Reason" to Sue in Supreme Court

If a Plaintiff sues in Supreme Court but is awarded damages of $25,000 or less (the current financial limit of the BC Small Claims Court) the Plaintiff is not entitled to Costs unless they had “sufficient reason” for suing in the BC Supreme Court.
It is becoming reasonably well established that a Plaintiff has sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court when the Defendant is insured with ICBC.  The reason being that the Defendant will likely be represented by a lawyer paid for by ICBC whether the claim is filed in Small Claims Court or the Supreme Court.  In these circumstances it is reasonable for a plaintiff to hire a lawyer to balance the playing field.  Since the Supreme Court allows costs orders to offset some of the legal fees our Courts have held on a few recent occasions that this creates a ‘suffient reason’ for Plaintiff’s to bring modest claims to trial in the Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Zale v. Colwell) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.  She sued in the Supreme Court.  At trial she was awarded just over $10,000 for injuries and losses.  Mr. Justice Harvey went on to award the Plaintiff costs despite the fact that the Small Claims Court could have heard the case.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[7]             None of the factors identified in Spencer have application here. The matter was not factually complex; it proceeded by judge alone; liability was admitted, obviating the need for examination for discovery by the plaintiff; the defendant resided within the jurisdiction; and, the matter did not proceed by way of summary trial.

[8]             As was noted in Spencer, the desire of the plaintiff to have counsel, alone, is not a sufficient reason, of itself, to depart from the underlying proposition stated in R. 57(10). In any event, the plaintiff was represented when the action was originally commenced in Provincial Court in 2006.

[9]             Lastly, the plaintiff says costs should be awarded owing to the fact the defendant, in effect ICBC, is an institutional litigant with rigid policies in low velocity collision claims such as this.

[10]         The defendant, while admitting liability, put the plaintiff to the strict proof of any damages whatsoever arising from the accident. That position did not change throughout the trial process. As in Spencer, I am left with the conclusion that but for the trial process, the plaintiff would be left without a remedy…

[13]         In each of the above three decisions, the primary reason for awarding the plaintiff costs, in circumstances not unlike these facing the plaintiff here, was the consideration that given the need to retain counsel to battle an institutional defendant,  a reasonable consideration in determining the forum is the matter of indemnity for the costs of counsel.

[14]         Recognizing that the onus rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate sufficient reason to have raised the matter from Provincial Court to Supreme Court, I am not persuaded that the distinguishing factor noted by the defendant, that counsel was retained (albeit not the same counsel) for the Provincial Court proceeding, is sufficient to deprive the plaintiff of the costs of the proceeding under R. 66.

[15]         I conclude that in the circumstances, it was ultimately reasonable for the plaintiff to make the decision to have the matter heard in Supreme Court.

[16]         Accordingly, the plaintiff will have her costs pursuant to R. 66(29)(b).

I should point out that today’s case relied on BC Supreme Court Rule 57(10).  This rule has now been repealed and replaced with Rule 14-1(10) which reads identically to Rule 57(10) so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.  I should also point out that the BC Court of Appeal is expected to address the issue of sufficient reason for suing in the BC Supreme Court and provide further clarity and certainty to this area of the law.

More on BC Supreme Court Costs – Rule 57(10) and Judgments Below $25,000

(Note: The below case was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal.  You can find the BCCA decision here.)
As recently discussed, when advancing an ICBC Claim in Court one of the first choices to make is whether to sue in BC Supreme Court or Small Claims Court.   When a Plaintiff successfully sues in the BC Supreme Court they are usually entitled to “costs” from the Defendant.  Costs are intended to offset some of the expenses of requiring a formal lawsuit to reach a resolution to a claim. The Small Claims Court does not have the ability to award Costs.
One of the exceptions to this general principle of giving successful Supreme Court plaintiffs “Costs” is set out in Rule 57(10) which holds that “A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in Supreme Court and so orders.
So if a Plaintiff is awarded under $25,000 (the current limit of the Small Claims Court) in an ICBC or other BC Injury Claim does this mean they will be deprived of Court Costs?  The answer is not necessarily.  Our Supreme Court has held time and time again that a Plaintiff may have sufficient reasons for suing in Supreme Court despite the fact the final outcome may be an award below $25,000 and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this.
In today’s case (Gradek v. DaimlerChrysler Financial) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC car crash.  He sued in the BC Supreme Court and was awarded just below $10,000 in total damages (you can click here to read my article summarizing the trial judgement).  The Plaintiff asked for Costs.  The Defendants opposed this arguing that since the value of the case within the Small Claims Courts Monetary Jurisdiction the Plaintiff did not have “sufficient reason” to sue in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Justice Savage rejected this argument and summarized the law relating to “sufficient reason” to sue in the BC Supreme Court as follows:

[18] In my opinion the approach taken by the defendants is too narrow and not supported by an interpretation of the Rule or by the authorities.

[19] The proviso in Rule 57(10) is “unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in Supreme Court and so orders”.  The Rule does not define “sufficient reason”.  There is nothing in the Rule that limits the extension of the term “sufficient reason” to matters relating to the quantum of the claim.  ..

[27] There are relevant authorities in this court.  In Faedo v. Dowell, 2007 BCSC 1985, a case predating Reimann, Curtis J. held that a variety of factors gave rise to “sufficient reason” within the meaning of Rule 57(10).  The Court referred to the plaintiff’s beliefs about her claim, the defendant’s denial of liability, challenge to the plaintiff’s credibility, the plaintiff’s inexperience and demeanor, the reasonable requirement to have counsel, and the fact that costs of counsel were only recoverable in Supreme Court.

[28] Master Patterson in Garcia v. Bernath, 2003 BCSC 1163, 18 B.C.L.R. (4th) 389 (S.C.), held that a number of factors including whether there were injuries at all, can give rise to sufficient reason.

[29] In Johannson v. National Car Rental (Canada) Inc., 2009 BCSC 1284, Barrow J., referred to Reimann, and noted in obiter dicta that other reasons for proceeding in Supreme Court include those identified in Kuehne.

[30] In Tucker v. Brown, 2008 BCSC 734, Cole J. applied Reimann noting the importance of discovery procedures in determining liability in a “no crash no cash” case.

[31] In Kanani v. Misiurna, 2008 BCSC 1274, Humphries J. considered factors such as a denial of liability in finding “sufficient reason” under the Rule.  To like effect is the decision in Ostovic v. Foggin, 2009 BCSC 58.

[32] In the result, in my view, the term “sufficient reason” within the meaning of the rule encompasses a number of considerations including considerations which do not inform the quantum of the claim.

Mr. Justice Savage went on to award the Plaintiff his trial costs finding that despite the fact that the case could have been tried in Provincial Court given its monetary value the Plaintiff had sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court for a variety of reasons including the fact that the examination for discovery evidence was useful at trial and that the Plaintiff would have been “out-matched” if he sued the insured defendant without the assistance of a lawyer in small claims court.

In my continued effort to cross reference the current Supreme Court rules with the new Rules of Court that come into force on July 1, 2010 I will note that the Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identical to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.

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

Further to my previous posts on this topic, reasons for judgement were released today considering whether to award a Plaintiff Supreme Court Costs in an ICBC Claim where the judgement amount was within the Small Claims Court’s jurisdiction.
In today’s case (Mohamadi v. Tremblay) the Plaintiff was awarded $10,490 in his ICBC Claim after trial (click here to read my summary of the trial judgment).
The Plaintiff brought an application to be awarded ‘costs’ under Rule 57(10) which reads as follows:
A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
ICBC opposed this application.  Mr. Justice Truscott set out the leading test in applying Rule 57(10) from the BC Court of Appeal (Reimann v. Aziz) where the BC high court held that “Considering Rule 57(10) in its legislative context and applying its words in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the legislation and its objects, I conclude that a plaintiff does not have an ongoing obligation to assess the quantum of a claim and that the point in time for a consideration of whether a plaintiff had sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court is the time of the initiation of the action.”
Mr. Justice Truscott held that this Plaintiff did not have “sufficient reason for bringing” his lawsuit in the Supreme Court.  He summarized the key reasons behind his conclusion as follows:

[58] I recognize that most plaintiffs with personal injury claims probably feel more comfortable with counsel representing them and more confident that they will obtain a greater amount of damages for their claim with the assistance of counsel than by acting on their own in Small Claims Court.

[59] However, the onus to prove that at the beginning of the claim there is sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in Supreme Court, as Rule 57(10) states, lies in practice to some great extent on plaintiff’s counsel who is advising the plaintiff on the value of his claim and commencing the action.

[60] Here, I am satisfied that if Dr. Fox’s medical records pre-accident had been obtained and if his opinions and the opinions of Dr. Cameron had been obtained before the writ of summons was issued, with the plaintiff’s credibility at issue with respect to the injuries he was alleging that were not supported by his doctors, with his false statement to ICBC, and with the contrary evidence of his employer, it could and should easily have been determined that the action should be commenced in Small Claims Court and not this Court.

In my continued exercise to get used to the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules, I am cross referencing all civil procedure cases I write about with the new rules.   The Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identically to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants after July 1, 2010.

More on Costs and "Sufficient Reason" for Suing in Supreme Court

I’ve previously posted on the topic of costs consequences when a Plaintiff succeeds in a BC Supreme Court lawsuit but is awarded damages within the small claims court jurisdiction.
For the Plaintiff to be entitled to costs it must be found that the Plaintiff had “sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court”.  Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with this issue.
In today’s case (Johannson v. National Car Rental) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 BC Car Crash.  The Defendant admitted fault.  At trial Mr. Justice Barrow found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which he summarized as follows:
I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her upper back and neck in the accident. She followed all of the medical advice she was given and was, I am satisfied, motivated to overcome her injuries. Between the date of the accident and the end of the year, she saw her chiropractor approximately 25 times. I am satisfied that the frequency of these visits was due to the pain and discomfort she was experiencing. The injuries caused her considerable discomfort, moreso than similar injuries might cause to other persons because of her pre-existing condition.
Mr. Justice Barrow awarded the Plaintiff just over $15,000 in total damages (well below the Small Claims Court’s current monetary jurisdiction of $25,000).  One of the central issues at trial was weather the Plaintiff suffered a frozen shoulder in the car accident on top of her soft tissue injuries.  Ultimately the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer from a frozen shoulder but this was not caused by the accident.
The Plaintiff brought a motion to be awarded Supreme Court Costs arguing she had sufficient reason to bring her claim in the Supreme Court.  Specifically it was argued that if the Plaintiff’s expert evidence was accepted with respect to the cause of her frozen shoulder her claim was well within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.  The Defence lawyer argued otherwise stating that there was no sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court and that “the Plaintiff should have realized at the time she commenced her action that her frozen shoulder was not caused by the motor vehicle accident”.
The Court concluded that there was sufficient reason for this Plaintiff to sue in Supreme Court.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Barrow summarized and applied some of the principles in these types of cases as follows:
Rule 66(29) is, by its terms, subject to Rule 57(10). Rule 57(10) provides as follows:

A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.

[4] The onus is on the plaintiff under Rule 57(10) to justify her choice of forum (Bhanji v. Quezada, 2003 BCCA 445). Until the Court of Appeal’s decision in Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448; 286 D.L.R. (4th) 330, there was some uncertainty as to whether the plaintiff’s obligation to justify its choice of forum was a continuing one or rather one to be assessed only at the time the action was commenced. Chaisson J.A. resolved that issue, concluding that a plaintiff must only demonstrate that it had sufficient reason to bring the proceeding in the Supreme Court at the time the action was commenced.

[5] The “sufficient reason” referred to in the rule is often, but not invariably, related to whether the anticipated judgment will exceed the monetary jurisdiction of the Provincial Court. If, at the time the action was commenced, there was sufficient reason to conclude that the judgment would likely exceed the Provincial Court’s monetary jurisdiction, then the decision to proceed in this court will usually be found to be justified. There may be other reasons for proceeding in the Supreme Court. Some of those other reasons were identified in Kuehne v. Probstl, 2004 BCSC 865. Where those other reasons are present then, even if the anticipated monetary award is likely to fall within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court, there may still be “sufficient reason” to proceed in this court.

[6] In the case at bar, the only basis advanced for proceeding in the Supreme Court is that the reasonably expected award was likely to exceed the monetary jurisdiction of the Provincial Court…

[12] In effect the plaintiff took the position when she launched this action that her frozen shoulder was the consequence of the defendant’s negligence. I am satisfied that she has always honestly believed that. While that conclusion was not free from doubt when the action was launched, it was not an unreasonable position to take at the time. The fact that her own doctor came to share that view is some indication that the position was not unreasonable, even though there is no evidence that she had the benefit of that opinion at the time the action was started.

[13] In summary, I am satisfied that there was sufficient reason for the plaintiff to bring this proceeding in the Supreme Court. The plaintiff is, therefore, entitled to her costs which, given the length of trial and the provisions of Rule 66(29)(b), I set at $6,600 plus disbursements.

In my continued effort to cross reference the current Supreme Court rules with the new Rules of Court that come into force on July 1, 2010 I will note that the Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identical to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.

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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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