Tag: Rule 57(10)

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.

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.

ICBC Asks Court of Appeal to Address "Costs" Awards In Cases Worth Under $25,000

I’ve written many times about the fact that the BC Supreme Court Rules give trial judges a discretion to award a successful plaintiff Court Costs even if the amount awarded falls in the Small Claims Court’s Jurisdiction.
Two recent cases were released today by the BC Court of Appeal demonstrating that ICBC is interested in having the circumstances in which these awards are made limited.
In the first case (Morales v. Neilson) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC Car Crash and sued for damages.  At trial he was awarded just over $12,000.  The trial judge went on to award the Plaintiff costs despite the fact that the judgement was for an amount within the small claims courts financial jurisdiction.  ICBC asked permission to appeal but this was refused with the BC High Court holding that the Judge appropriately applied the test for discretionary costs.
The second case, however, had the BC Court of Appeal more interested.  In this case (Gradek v. DaimlerChyrster Financial Services Canada Inc.) the trial judge awarded a Plaintiff under $10,000 in total compensation as a result of a BC collision.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff costs.  (You can click here to read my summary of the trial decision regarding costs).  ICBC asked the Court of Appeal to intervene arguing that the trial judge was wrong in considering the ‘procedural advantages‘ available in the BCSC as factors which give a plaintiff ‘sufficient reason‘ to sue in that Court when the case is worth clearly less than $25,000.  The Court of Appeal agreed to hear the case noting that this is an important issue for ICBC. Specifically the BC High Court held as follows:

[7] The issue on which the appeal is sought to be brought is a pure issue of law. It is one of statutory construction, the question being the meaning of the words “sufficient reason” in the context of Rule 57(10). The language of Rule 57(10) does not, on its face, limit “sufficient reason” to a consideration of the anticipated quantum of damages.  Even so, while I would not describe the appellant’s case as a very strong one, it does seem to me that it is arguable that “sufficient reason” contemplates jurisdictional questions (particularly the quantum of damages), and not procedural advantages.  In my view, there is sufficient merit in the appeal to warrant a hearing before a division of the Court.

[8] The issue of how the Supreme Court is to determine whether a matter is brought in that court for “sufficient reason” is a matter of general importance in litigation, particularly given that the monetary limit for Small Claims Court has expanded to $25,000. There will now be a sizable number of cases that fall below the Small Claims limit.

[9] The case is of significance to the defendant in this matter; from a practical standpoint, it is an institutional defendant involved in many cases. The case is, however, of limited significance to the plaintiff.  While the costs award is a significant proportion of the entire award received by the plaintiff, the costs of defending the appeal may significantly exceed the amount in issue.

[10] This concern is mitigated, however, by the fact that the appellant is prepared to abide by an order that it will pay the respondent’s costs on Scale 1 in any event of the appeal (it is acknowledged that the respondent would be free to argue before the Court that a higher level indemnity should be awarded).

[11] In the circumstances, I am satisfied that leave ought to be grant and that a division of the Court should hear this matter. Leave is granted. The appellant will be responsible for the respondent’s costs in any event of the appeal.

I will be sure to write about the BC Court of Appeals decision in this case once it is released.

More on Court Costs and "Sufficient Reason" For Suing in the BC Supreme Court

Further to my previous posts on this topic, if a Plaintiff successfully sues in the BC Supreme Court but receives damages below $25,000 they may be deprived of their court ‘costs’ unless they had ‘sufficient reason’ for choosing the Supreme Court over small claims court.
Two judgements were released this week by the BC Supreme Court discussing this area of law.  In this weeks cases (Spencer v. Popham and Spencer v. Horton) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate  BC car crashes.  She started separate lawsuits in the BC Supreme Court but settled her cases before they went to trial.  Both claims settled form amounts below $25,000 (the current financial limit of BC’s small claims court).  The Plaintiff and ICBC could not agree on the issue of costs.
ICBC argued that since both cases were in the small claims courts jurisdiction the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason for suing in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Punnett disagreed and awarded the Plaintiff costs in both claims.  In doing so he provided the following useful and through summary of this area of the law:

[8] Rule 57(10) of the Rules of Court states:

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.

[9] This rule encourages persons to bring actions in Small Claims Court when a claim falls within that court’s monetary jurisdiction. It is an example of “proportionality”; the judicial process should match the amount in dispute. However, the court must also respect a party’s “legitimate choice” of forum: Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, 286 D.L.R. (4th) 330 at para. 35.

[10] The burden is on claimants to evaluate their claims prior to commencement and to justify their decision if they recover less than the Small Claims Court limit, currently $25,000:Reimann at para. 38. If plaintiffs fail to sufficiently investigate and assess their claims prior to commencement, they risk not recovering costs. In a personal injury action this may require plaintiffs to obtain medical records and medical reports, to gather evidence to support claims for loss of earnings and earning capacity, and to assess the evidence in support of the claims being advanced before commencing the action.

[11] However, as noted by Justice Savage in Gradek v. DaimlerChrysler Financial Services Canada Inc, 2010 BCSC 356 at para. 19, R. 57(10) contemplates the possibility that factors other than quantum must be considered:

[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.

[12] Factors that can give rise to “sufficient reason” were set out in Kuehne v. Probstl, 2004 BCSC 865 at para. 22, and accepted in Icecorp International Cargo Express Corp. v. Nicolaus, 2007 BCCA 97, 38 C.P.C. (6th) 26 at para. 27. They include:

i. the legal or factual complexity of the case;

ii. the need for discovery of documents and examinations for discovery;

iii. the need for a judgment enforceable outside of British Columbia;

iv. a bona fide preference for a jury trial; and

v. access to the summary trial procedure available in Supreme Court.

Other factors can be the need for the plaintiff to have legal counsel (Faedo v. Dowell, 2007 BCSC 1985 at para. 36; Ostovic v. Foggin, 2009 BCSC 58 at para. 42; Gradek at para. 43), and the defendant’s denial of liability, causation, and injury or loss and allegations of contributory negligence, pre-existing conditions, previous causes and a failure to mitigate (Ostovic at paras. 39-40; Gradek at para. 35).

[13] Therefore, a plaintiff’s evaluation of his or her claim, can also involve an assessment of these factors. Even if the plaintiff assesses the claim to be within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, the plaintiff can rely on these other reasons to commence the action in Supreme Court: Johannson v. National Car Rental (Canada) Inc., 2009 BCSC 1284 at para. 5.

[14] In my opinion, a plaintiff’s simple desire to retain counsel is not in and of itself a sufficient reason for commencing the action in Supreme Court. Other factors, such as those noted above, determine whether retaining counsel is justified.

[15] In Faedo, the plaintiff was in a low impact collision and suffered a soft tissue injury to her neck and back. Justice Vickers found that the case was not that complex and plaintiff’s counsel could not have considered ICBC’s original dispute of liability a serious threat to recovery. However, Justice Vickers concluded that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have brought her claim in Supreme Court for two reasons: (1) when the action was commenced, the plaintiff believed she was suffering from the accident and her pleadings included a claim for loss of earning capacity and disruption of the ability to earn income; and (2) ICBC put her credibility seriously in issue when it took the position that she had not suffered from any injury or any significant injury. Justice Vickers continued at para. 36:

[36]      … I observed this plaintiff to be very nervous in court. She had no previous experience in court and in my opinion when she was confronted with a case where the defendant represented by counsel was suggesting that she hadn’t been injured at all and this was a low impact accident in which it was suggested she wouldn’t be injured, that the plaintiff reasonably required counsel to represent her and reasonably started an action in the Supreme Court where she could hope to recover some of the cost of retaining that counsel which was necessary for her to properly put her case to get the compensation I have found her entitled to. Furthermore, an offer to settle such as the plaintiff made in this case puts very little pressure upon a defendant to settle where there is no exposure to costs.

[16] In Ostovic, another case arising out of a low impact accident, Justice Savage noted that because the defendant denied liability, causation and special damages, the plaintiff had to prove these issues in court. Because of this, the plaintiff needed to avail himself of pre-trial discovery, which provided important evidence of the speed of impact, the consequences of impact and concern over the plaintiff’s condition. In addition, Justice Savage found at para. 42:

[42]      There is the additional factor that, as in Faedo and Kanani [v. Misiurna, 2008 BCSC 1274], the Plaintiff faced an institutional defendant which, in the ordinary course, has counsel. To obtain any recovery the Plaintiff is forced to go to court, where he is facing counsel and counsel is reasonably required, but in Provincial Court there is no way of recovering the costs of counsel.

[17] In Gradek, before the issuance of the writ, the defendants’ insurers had informed the plaintiffs that their position was the accident did not result in any compensable injury. In their pleadings, the defendants denied liability and injury or loss and alleged contributory negligence, the existence of a pre-existing injury and previous causes, and a failure to mitigate. There was a broad range of findings possible respecting liability. The plaintiff, Henryk Gradek, was a Polish immigrant who spoke halting English. Justice Savage found at para. 42 that “he would have had extraordinary difficulty presenting a case on his own” and would have been “out-matched” by either a lawyer or an ICBC adjustor. The plaintiff needed counsel to obtain a just result and, therefore, had sufficient reason to begin the action in Supreme Court.

[18] Plaintiffs do not have an ongoing duty to reassess their claims as the matter proceeds: Reimann at para. 44. Thus, the court must assess whether a plaintiff had “sufficient reason” to bring the action in Supreme Court when the plaintiff started the action: Ostovic at para. 35. This analysis is necessarily done with the benefit of hindsight since it only occurs after trial or settlement, but the court must be careful not to use that hindsight in deciding what was reasonable: Faedo at para. 28.

[19] It also must be remembered R. 57(10) “does not involve an exercise of discretion.” Rather, “the court must make a finding that there was sufficient reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court” (emphasis added): Reimann at para. 13.

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.

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.

More on BC Supreme Court Trials and Costs

I’ve previously posted that when a Plaintiff in a BC Supreme Court Lawsuit is awarded damages in the Small Claims Court Jurisdiction ($25,000 or less) the Plaintiff is usually not permitted to court ‘costs’.
This is so because Rule 57(10) of the Supreme Court Rules 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 is sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this section and the issue of when there is ‘sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court.’
In today’s case (Munro v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was awarded just over $12,000 for injuries sustained in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  The Defendant was apparently insured by ICBC and subject to ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Defence.
The Plaintiff brought application seeking court ‘costs’.  He argued as follows:

[7]             The plaintiff says that “sufficient reason” is to be considered as at the time of commencement of proceedings: Riemann v. Aziz [2009] BCCA 448.

[8]             He says that at the date of commencement of the action, he had in hand the reports of two medical experts.  The conclusion arising from those is that it was a moderate/severe whiplash injury impacting on his future vocational capabilities, indicating a loss of capacity claim.

[9]             In these circumstances, counsel for the plaintiff contends there was good reason to bring his action in this court as opposed to the Small Claims division of the Provincial Court.

The defence lawyer argued that the Plaintiff should be deprived of ‘costs’ because the Plaintiff only recovered half of what could have been awarded in Small Claims Court therefore the Plaintiff should have started the lawsuit there.
In accepting the Plaintiff’s position Mr. Justice Williams applied the law as follows:

[22]         In order to determine the merit of the plaintiff’s claim for costs, it is necessary to examine whether he has shown that there was sufficient reason to have justified the decision to commence the proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[23]         Both parties accept that to be the correct analysis.  As well, both agree that the point in time at which the assessment is to be made is when the action in initiated.

[24]         In this case, plaintiff’s counsel had in hand the reports of two medical practitioners when he commenced the proceeding.  The report of Dr. Paterson, a treating chiropractor, concluded that the plaintiff’s symptoms of neck pain and stiffness, headaches, left shoulder pain and weakness are the result of a Grade III whiplash (moderate/severe) that he sustained in his July 6, 2006 motor vehicle accident. …

[25] There was also a medical-legal opinion from Dr. Condon….

26] Based on those opinions, it was not unreasonable for the plaintiff’s counsel to conclude that the action should be commenced in the Supreme Court.  The evidence indicated the likelihood of a viable claim for loss of future earning capacity as well as a not-insignificant claim for general damages.  Taking that into account, I am not prepared to find that his decision to bring the claim as he did was improper:  he had sufficient reason to proceed as he did when the writ was filed….

32] In the result, there is no basis to find that he deliberately misrepresented his situation to the doctors.  I stand by my conclusion that there was sufficient reason for bringing this proceeding in the Supreme Court, and reject the argument that he should be disentitled to the benefit of that finding because of his own conduct.

On another note, I posted yesterday about the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules which come into force next year.   I have referenced these and it appears that the law as set out in Rule 57(10) of the current rules remains in place in the New Rules.  The relevant provision is set out in Rule 14-1(10) of the new Civil Rules.  The language there is identical to the current Rule 57(10) so precedents such as this case should remain good law after the new rules take effect.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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