Tag: Rule 9-1(6)

Defendant Fails "To Recognize The 'Capital Asset” Approach"; Ordered To Pay Double Costs

Update August 5, 2015 – The below damages for Diminished Earning Capacity were overturned by the Court of Appeal and a new trial was ordered on the issue.
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Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Penticton Registry, ordering a Defendant to pay double costs for refusing to accept a bested pre-trial formal settlement offer.  In reaching this result the Court was critical in the Defendant’s failure to appreciate the ‘capital asset’ approach in assessing diminished earning capacity awards.
In this week’s case (Ostrikoff v. Oliveira) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Prior to trial the parties exchanged a variety of formal settlement offers with the Plaintiff’s last offer coming in at $325,000 and the Defendant’s last offer being $100,000.  The matter proceeded to trial where damages of over $550,000 were assessed.  The Plaintiff was awarded post offer double costs and in finding the Defendant should have accepted the Plaintiff’s offer the Court provided the following comments:
[11]         The plaintiff, on the other hand, marshalled a combination of both expert and lay evidence.  The essence of the plaintiff’s case was that the plaintiff was involved in unique and highly skilled work which had a significant physical component and that the plaintiff’s chronic pain and physical impairments threatened both his business and his sole means of livelihood.  The uncontradicted expert evidence was that the plaintiff was not a suitable candidate for retraining. 
[12]         All of this was known to the defendant well before the trial began.  Expert reports had been delivered from orthopaedic surgeons, treating physicians, a functional capacity evaluator, a vocational consultant, a cost of care consultant, and an economist (regarding future loss multipliers).  No rebuttal reports were prepared by the defendants and much of the evidence was uncontradicted at trial.
[13]         Plaintiff’s counsel provided the defendant with a detailed rationale for the quantum of the first settlement offer in the amount of $325,000 made on March 8, 2013.  The nature and structure of the claim became obvious at that point, if it had not already been obvious beforehand.  Service of the plaintiff’s expert reports would have alerted the defendant to the possibility of a very significant claim being presented and possibly succeeding at trial. 
[14]         The only submission made by the defendant in defence of its refusal to accept the plaintiff’s settlement offer is that there was an absence of any “documented pecuniary loss” and of any expert or other reliable evidence supporting any pecuniary loss, whether past or future.  The submission, and indeed the defence’s entire approach to both the case and the settlement offer, fails to recognize the “capital asset” approach to assessment of damages for both past and future earning capacity in circumstances where the financial loss is not easily measurable. 
[15]         In my opinion, the February 17, 2014 settlement offer made by the plaintiff was reasonable and one that ought reasonably to have been accepted by the defendant before the commencement of trial.  A careful assessment of the strength of the plaintiff’s case on the eve of trial, having regard to the expert reports and the proposed lay testimony, as well as the principles of damages assessment in chronic pain cases involving potentially significant loss of capacity would have, and should have, resulted in a conclusion that a recovery at trial of sums in excess of the offer was a realistic prospect.  Instead, relying almost exclusively on tactics limited to cross-examination and putting the plaintiff to strict proof of his case, the defendant chose to proceed to trial to see what might happen.  Defendants are free to litigate the case in such fashion as they consider appropriate.  But as stated in Hartshorne, above, “[l]itigants are to be reminded that costs rules are in place to encourage the early settlement of disputes by rewarding the party who makes a reasonable settlement offer and penalizing the party who declines to accept such an offer”.
[16]         For these reasons, I exercise my discretion to award party and party costs to the plaintiff under Scale B up to February 17, 2014, and double that scale for all steps taken in the proceeding thereafter.
 

Excessive Delay Strips Defendant of Double Costs Entitlement

In what I believe is the first case addressing this factor, reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, looking to the timeliness of  a costs application as a factor in deciding costs consequences following a trial with a formal settlement offer in place.
In this week’s case (Bay v. Pasieka) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued the Defendant for damages.  The case had “frailties” and prior to trial the Defendant made a nominal formal settlement offer of $1.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial.  A jury dismissed the claim.  The Defendant sought double costs and Mr. Justice Butler would have awarded these but did not due to excessive delay in bringing the Defendant’s application.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
 [1]             On January 27, 2010, following a two-day trial, the action of the plaintiff, Laurie-Ann Bay, against the defendant, Todd Pasieka, was dismissed. I ordered that the issue of costs be adjourned with liberty to the parties to apply to the court if an agreement could not be reached. Three-and-a-half years after the trial, the defendant now applies for costs. The defendant seeks costs at Scale B and double costs from November 14, 2006, the date an offer to settle was made, to the present. The plaintiff says that each party should bear their own costs…
[30]         While some delay is understandable, the delay in this case far exceeded a reasonable limit. Excessive delay is, of course, contrary to the object of the Rules as set out in Rule 1-3(1): to secure “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.” By waiting so long to deal with the issue of costs, the defendant undoubtedly increased the cost of dealing with the issue for both parties and delayed the final resolution by years. It would be wrong to accept the delay without imposing any consequence on the defendant. It is in the interests of the court and of the parties to resolve disputes as soon as they arise to promote efficient use of court time. The inordinate delay in bringing this application is not acceptable.
[31]         In Xerox, Finch J. found that a party alleging prejudice has the evidentiary burden of showing that prejudice. While the evidence presented does not establish significant prejudice, the plaintiff has established that the defendant’s delay in pursuing a costs award caused her and her counsel difficulty in responding to the application in as fulsome a manner as she would have been able to had the defendant sought costs soon after trial. Similarly, it is much more difficult for the court to consider the costs claim so long after the trial has concluded.
[32]         I find that the defendant has not provided a suitable reason for the inordinate delay in bringing this application. The plaintiff has been prejudiced as a result of this delay and the court has been inconvenienced.
[33]         Without the delay in the application, I would have found that the defendant was entitled to double costs from the date of Mr. Pasieka’s examination for discovery. The plaintiff should have known from that time forward her claim was weak and should have accepted the offer. However, given the inordinate delay, I decline to make that order. Instead, I order that the defendant is entitled to costs at Scale B throughout.
 

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Discretionary Costs in Face of Formal Settlement Offers

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the current landscape of judicial discretion when awarding costs in cases with formal settlement offers in play.
In this week’s case (Wafler v. Trinh) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision.  Prior to trial ICBC made three formal settlement offers, the final being $222,346.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial.  A jury assessed damages at $70,000 and after appropriate deductions this resulted in judgement of over $53,000.  ICBC applied for post offer costs.  Mr. Justice Voith did not agree that such a result was appropriate but did strip the Plaintiff of post offer costs and disbursements.  Given that the trial lasted 10 days this is a significant financial consequence.
ICBC appealed arguing “the purpose of the appeal on costs was to reverse what he described as a trend in the trial court wherein plaintiffs who succeed in “beating” an offer to settle are routinely awarded double costs but defendants who have made an offer to settle that was rejected but well within the claim value are deprived an order of costs. The defendant says this is unjust. In other words, the defendant submits there should be significant consequences to plaintiffs who fail to accept a reasonable offer.”
The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal finding the trial judge fairly exercised his discretion.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[79]         Pursuant to Rule 14-1(9) of the Supreme Court Rules, Mr. Wafler, as the successful party, is entitled to his costs unless the court orders otherwise. Pursuant to Rule 9-1(4), the court may consider an offer to settle when exercising its discretion in relation to costs. Rule 9-1(5) enumerates the orders the court may make. In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the factors listed in subrule (6).
[80]         The purpose for which costs rules exist, as stated in Giles v. Westminster Savings and Credit Union, 2010 BCCA 282, was referred to by the trial judge at para. 18 of his reasons (reproduced at para. 50 above).
[81]         I do not quarrel with the general proposition that a plaintiff who rejects a reasonable offer to settle should usually face some sanction in costs, even in circumstances in which it cannot be said that the plaintiff should have accepted the offer. To do otherwise would undermine the importance of certainty and consequences in applying the Rule. The importance of those principles was emphasized by this court in Evans v. Jensen, 2011 BCCA 279:
[41]      This conclusion is consistent with the importance the Legislature has placed on the role of settlement offers in encouraging the determination of disputes in a cost-efficient and expeditious manner. It has placed a premium on certainty of result as a key factor which parties consider in determining whether to make or accept an offer to settle. If the parties know in advance the consequences of their decision to make or accept an offer, whether by way of reward or punishment, they are in a better position to make a reasoned decision. If they think they may be excused from the otherwise punitive effect of a costs rule in relation to an offer to settle, they will be more inclined to take their chances in refusing to accept an offer. If they know they will have to live with the consequences set forth in the Rule, they are more likely to avoid the risk.
[82]         That said, under the present Rule, unlike its predecessor which mandated the result, it is for the trial judge to determine in any particular case the nature and scope of whatever sanctions are to be applied. The permissive wording in Rules 9-1(5) and (6) indicates the legislature intended to preserve the historically discretionary nature of costs awards, including an award of costs where an offer to settle has been made.
[83]         In my opinion, the judge adequately considered the factors under Rule 9-1(6) which were relevant in this case. Most significantly, the defendant’s contention that the plaintiff in this case did not suffer any consequences from his failure to accept the offers to settle ignores the fact that, as a successful party, he was deprived of his costs and disbursements from December 21, 2011, approximately six weeks before the jury’s verdict made on February 3, 2012. The verdict followed a ten day trial. Thus, the impact of the judge’s costs order was to deprive Mr. Wafler of taxable costs for the preparation of and attendance at a ten day trial, together with disbursements incurred after the offer, which presumably included fees for attendance by experts.
[84]         In these circumstances, I do not think it can be fairly said that the plaintiff in this case was not penalized for his failure to accept the defendant’s offer. In my view, the costs order reflected the underlying purpose of Rule 9-1.
[85]         In the result, I would dismiss the cross-appeal.
 

"Genuine Belief" in Entitled Damages Will Not Avoid Formal Settlement Offer Costs Consequences

In a fairly routine exercise of the Court’s discretion, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to pay the Defendant’s trial costs for failing to best a pre-trial formal settlement offer in a personal injury claim.
In this week’s case (Wilson v. Honda Canada Financial Inc.) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear end collision.  Fault was not at issue.   Although the Court found that there “are serious issues regarding (the Plaintiff’s) credibility”  Madam Justice Fitzpatrick concluded the Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries, some of which remained symptomatic on an intermittent basis at the time of trial.  Six weeks prior to trial the Defendant made a formal settlement offer of just over $121,000.  The Plaintiff sought an award well above this at trial but many of the claimed damages were rejected with the court assessing damages about $25,000 below the formal settlement offer.
The Defendant sought post offer costs and these were granted.  In finding that a Plaintiff’s “honest belief” in entitlement to damages does not avoid the costs consequences intended by the Rules of Court, Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:
[11]         Mr. Wilson argues that he “genuinely believed” that he had incurred a past and future wage loss because he was unable to work for Taja. With respect, it can hardly be the case that honest belief alone will avoid the intended effect of the Rule. This is similar to my rejection of his honest belief as to disability where that belief was not supported by any medical evidence: Reasons, para. 137. As set out in the Reasons, there were numerous difficulties with Mr. Wilson’s arguments regarding Taja, including the lack of proper documentation, lack of medical evidence, and a rejection of his testimony on this issue (see paras. 120-146, 157-163). His claim for future massage therapy of $30,000 was also rejected for the reason that no medical evidence supported that claim.
[12]         Finally, Mr. Wilson’s evidence also suffered from credibility problems particularly where not supported by other credible evidence: Reasons, para. 42. Failure to anticipate credibility issues will also not avoid the operation of the Rule: Gehlen v. Rana, 2011 BCCA 219 at paras. 50-51.
[13]         Mr. Wilson argues that he should not be penalized for “guessing wrong”, citing Fan (Guardian ad litem of) v. Chana, 2009 BCSC 1497. However, it is clear from the comments of the court in that case that there were difficult issues relating to the evidence and how any offer could be dealt with, particularly given the involvement of the public trustee. Similar difficulties do not arise in this case.
[14]         I agree that a party is not required to “guess” about the probable outcome; rather, he or she is required to fairly and objectively assess the evidence intended to be adduced at trial and make a reasoned decision about the relative merits of the claim or defence, having in mind a certain amount of litigation risk. In essence, the party receiving the offer must critically review the merits of the claim in relation to the amount offered. As the court noted in Fan, quoting A.E.:
[62]      Regardless of the merits of the plaintiff’s claim the defendant’s offer to settle cannot be ignored, because to do so would undermine the purpose of the Rule. Having decided to proceed in the face of a not insignificant and ultimately successful offer to settle, the plaintiff cannot avoid some consequences.
[15]         The offer amount, while not approaching the amounts sought by Mr. Wilson, in all likelihood fairly assessed the claims about which there was no dispute and added further amounts for the litigation risk that the more contentious claims would go against the defendants. The offer was, no doubt, also prepared recognizing the substantial cost to both parties if the matter proceeded to trial. It cannot be understated that one of the purposes of the Rule is to avoid costs of proceeding further in the action: Martin, para. 8.
[16]         I conclude that the offer should reasonably have been accepted by Mr. Wilson shortly after it was made and that this factor favours the defendants…
[24]         I conclude that all factors to be considered under Rule 9-1(6) favour the costs award sought by the defendants. Accordingly, Mr. Wilson will recover his assessed costs and disbursements up to April 27, 2013, which is 5 days after the offer was sent in recognition that some reasonable period of time would have been necessary to consider the offer. Thereafter, the defendants will recover their assessed costs and disbursements commencing April 28, 2013. After assessment of these respective amounts, the parties shall set off the awards to produce a net award.

Pending Appeal No Reason For Trial Judge Not To Finalize Costs

Short and to the point reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a plaintiff double costs after proceeding to trial and besting a pre-trial settlement offer.
In the recent case (Codling v. Sosnowsky) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Prior to trial she made a formal settlement offer for $55,000.   ICBC rejected this and proceeded to trial where she was awarded just over $70,000.  The Court awarded the Plaintiff double costs for besting the offer.  ICBC argued that it was premature to settle costs as the case was under appeal.  Mr. Justice Smith quickly disposed of this argument providing the following reasons:
[3]             The defendant also says it is premature to deal with costs because he has filed an appeal and even partial success could reduce the award to an amount below the offer to settle. I do not accept that argument. The duty of this court is to finalize its own judgment. If the Court of Appeal finds that judgment to be in error, the costs consequences will change accordingly.
In confirming that this was an appropriate case for double costs Mr. Justice Smith reasoned as follows:
[7]             On the basis of the evidence that the parties could reasonably have anticipated being called at trial, I find that the plaintiff’s offer represented a reasonable effort to assess her possible recovery. It was one the defendant should have recognized as being within the range of possible awards and ought reasonably to have been accepted, particularly when weighed against the cost of going to trial. I recognize that liability was denied and the plaintiff’s offer made no apparent discount for risk on that issue, but this was a rear-end collision and the defendant had little prospect of success on liability or contributory negligence.

No Costs Consequences Triggered With Marginal ICBC Victory Over Formal Settlement Offer

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing costs consequences following a trial where ICBC marginally beat their pre-trial settlement offer.
In last week’s case (Wattar v. Lu) the Plaintiff  was injured in a collision in which she and the Defendant were found equally at fault.  After the liability split the Plaintiff’s net damages awarded at trial came to $26,000.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal offer of $27,500.  ICBC applied for costs consequences to flow from the Plaintiff’s choice to proceed to trial.  Mr. Justice Smith exercised his discretion and refused to award such consequences noting that the unrecovered potion of damages due to the operation of the Negligence Act was punishment enough.  The Court provided the following comments:
[13]         This was a three-day trial. In the absence of an offer to settle, the plaintiff would have been entitled to half of her costs, or $5,500, to reflect the division of liability. That would include $2,250, representing half of the costs attributable to three days of trial ($1,500 times three, divided by two). That is the proper amount by which to reduce the plaintiff’s costs as a consequence of her refusal to accept the settlement offer.
[14]         Counsel for the plaintiff argues that the plaintiff should recover all of her disbursements related to damages because she was substantially successful on that issue, but for the reduction resulting from the liability finding. I cannot accept that argument because the offer clearly encompassed a reasonable assessment of the plaintiff’s damages, discounted for the substantial liability risk. Acceptance of the settlement offer would have made it unnecessary for the plaintiff to prove her damages at trial.
[15]         The plaintiff is therefore entitled to costs of $3,250, plus one half of her disbursements to the date of the offer. In view of the modest award and the relatively small gap between the offer and the judgment, I do not consider it appropriate or necessary to further punish the plaintiff with an award of any portion of the defendant’s costs.

No Costs for ICBC Insured Defendant After Beating Formal Settlement Offer in Liability Trial

Three years ago the BC Court of Appeal clarified that a Defendant’s insured status can be taken into account when considering costs consequences in a trial where a formal settlement offer was in place.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court heavily relying on this factor in denying a Defendant post offer costs.
In this week’s case (Currie v. Taylor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  Prior to trial ICBC offered to settle the issue of liability with the Defendant shouldering 41% of the blame.  The plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial where a less favorable split of 75/25 was obtained.
The Defendant sought post offer costs.  Mr. Justice Armstrong did strip the Plaintiff of trial costs but did not award these to the Defendant either.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following comments about the significance of the Defendant’s insured status:
[65]         The defendants accept that the plaintiff is financially disadvantaged and that they are represented by an insurer. The defendants’ bill of costs has been presented in the sum of $30,000.32 whereas the plaintiff has disclosed an expenditure of disbursements exceeding $56,000. The plaintiff has not provided a draft bill of costs and I accept that the majority of those disbursements may relate to the issue of quantum. There is simply insufficient evidence on this point to influence the decision.
[66]         However, I am guided by the comments of Sewell J. Wong-Lai where he said:
[52]      I have also given consideration to the relative financial circumstances of the parties. The plaintiff has very limited means. The defendants are covered by insurance and in a very real sense it is the defendants’ insurer who is at risk in this action. I am entitled to take this factor into consideration in exercising my discretion: see Smith v. Tedford, 2010 BCCA 302, 7 B.C.L.R. (5th) 246. Given these circumstances, it is obvious that the relative financial consequences of depriving the plaintiff of her costs are much greater to the plaintiff than to the defendants.
[67]         I accept that there is a significant disparity between the financial resources of the parties and that the plaintiff has very limited means whereas the defendants are supported by an insurer and are at little risk in this action.
[68]         I will not order the plaintiff to pay the defendants’ costs after the delivery of their offer to settle. I have accepted the plaintiff’s arguments: there was a reasonable explanation for the plaintiff’s failure to accept the offer, the magnitude of the plaintiff’s claim is substantial, and there is a substantial discrepancy in the resources of the parties.
[69]         Accordingly, the plaintiff will recover 25% of his costs at Scale B until the date of trial. The defendants will not recover costs.
 

When Does An Award of $20,000 = A Significant Debt

No, this is not a trick question.  When can a judge awarding you $20,000 leave you in ‘significant’ debt?  The answer is when you fail to beat a formal offer at trial and have ‘loser pays’ costs assessed you.  I’ve discussed this reality previously and it was demonstrated yet again in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s case (Gonzales v. Voskakis) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collison.  Prior to trial ICBC provided a formal settlement offer of $69,000.  The Plaintiff rejected this and proceeded to have a 12 day trial where she sought in excess of $385,000.  The claim was largely unsuccessful with the trial judge awarding just over $20,000 in damages.  ICBC asked that the Plaintiff be stripped of post offer costs and that the Defendant be awarded post offer costs and disbrsements.  The Plaintiff argued that such a result would “negate her entire judgement and leave her significantly in debt“.   Madam Justice Fitzpatrick noted that the underlying “behaviour modification objective” of the Rules of Court override any sympathy to the Plaintiff and levied substantial costs consequences.
The decision is also worth reviewing for the discussion of whether a post offer costs award to a Defendant can include disbursements.  The Plaintiff argued the Rules don’t contemplate this but the Court disagreed. In finding disbursements were also encompassed in the Rule Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:
[65]         Rule 9-1(5) is headed “Cost options”. It is clearly intended to guide the court in deciding what costs award is just. Nevertheless, I do not see that subcategory (d) was intended to limit the discretion of the court to award a defendant’s disbursements in all cases when rewarding a defendant for making a reasonable offer. In many cases, disbursements are significant. In fact, the driving force behind an offer to settle may be the desire to avoid having to pay those disbursements. To limit the discretion of the court in awarding disbursements would defeat the clear intention of the Rule.
[66]         Although Brown J. came to another conclusion in Moore relating to double disbursements under Rule 9-1(5)(b), it appears that Kendall and Skidmore were not in front of her at that time. Therefore, in applying the principles set out in Re Hansard Spruce Mills Ltd., [1954] 4 D.L.R. 590, I do not consider that I am bound by her reasoning.
[67]         I acknowledge that the wording of Rule 9-1(5), in its reference to “disbursements” in subcategory (a) without an accompanying reference to “disbursements” in subcategory (d), is awkward and confounding. In my view, however, the fundamental purpose of the Rule — which, as stated by the Court of Appeal in Kendall and Skidmore, is to compensate for all “costs”, including disbursements — has not changed. One can only hope for some clarity on this issue by possible amendments to Rule 9-1(5).
[68]         In the meantime, I conclude that I have the discretion under Rule 9-1(5)(d) to award the defendant his costs, including disbursements.
[69]         I award such costs, which will include disbursements, in favour of Mr. Voskakis for the period from January 25, 2012 until February 29, 2012.

No Costs Consequences Triggered By Late Defence Formal Offer in Infant Claim

Update June 18, 2013 – Leave to Appeal the below decision was refused by the BC Court of Appeal
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Adding to the list of ‘other factors Courts can consider when deciding whether a formal settlement offer should trigger costs consequences following trial, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering the fact that an infant settlement would require Public Trustee approval.
In last week’s case (Nemoto v. Phagura) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision when she was 13.   One week before trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer which was $300 greater than the damages she was ultimately awarded at trial.  ICBC applied to strip the Plaintiff of her post trial costs and to be awarded theirs.  Mr. Justice Smith refused to do so noting that the offer was only 1% greater than the trial award, that there was no competing defence medical evidence to better define risk and lastly that the Public Trustee’s approval would be required which would result in an abandonment.  Addressing the last factor the Court provided the following reasons:
[10]         A further complication arose in this case from the fact the plaintiff was 17 years old at the time of trial. That means a settlement based on the formal offer would have required the consent of the Public Guardian and Trustee (“PGT”) pursuant to s. 40 (7) of the Infants Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.223. The absence of defence medical evidence may have made it more difficult for plaintiff’s counsel to persuade the PGT of the appropriateness of the settlement.
[11]          In any case, the PGT’s views could not likely have been obtained in the week between the date of the offer and the date of trial, requiring an adjournment of the trial. The plaintiff had to consider the delay that would have been involved in proceeding to trial at a later date in the event, however unlikely, the PGT was not prepared to consent.
[12]         In these circumstances, I cannot say that the offer ought reasonably to have been accepted and I decline to give effect to it in the matter of costs.

Defendant Stripped of Costs For Expert Witness Advocacy

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, stripping Defendants of significant trial costs they otherwise would have been entitled to as a result of relying on an expert witness who crossed the line into advocacy.
In this week’s case (Jampolsky v. Shattler) the Plaintiff was involved in 4 collisions.  He alleged he sustained a traumatic brain injury and sought damages exceeding one million dollars at trial.  The Court rejected the brain injury claim and found that the Plaintiff sustained modest injuries awarding $15,000 in total damages.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal offer of settlement of $125,000.   ICBC sought costs from the time of the offer onward. Mr. Justice Harvey held that normally such an order was appropriate but because of the Defendant’s expert witness’ evidence at trial which crossed into advocacy and further due to the Defendant lawyer’s conduct in the course of a mid-trial application, the Defendant should be stripped of their post offer costs.  In coming to this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[72]         As  earlier observed, but for the matter of the conduct of defendants’ counsel in the application for withdrawal of the admission and my findings concerning the evidence of Dr. Rees, I would have made an order under Rule 9-5(d) awarding the defendants costs in respect of the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle.
[73]         The degree to which the evidence of Dr. Rees crossed the boundary from expert opinion into advocacy is a matter which rests at the feet of the defendants. He was their witness and the defendants assume responsibility for his conduct. The Rules require experts to certify that they will prepare their reports and provide testimony in accordance with their duty to assist the court and not assume the role of advocate:Jayetileke, supra.
[74]         In LeClair v. Mibrella Inc., 2011 BCSC 533, Voith J. reduced the amount of costs payable to a successful defendant by 50% to make clear to the defendant that its conduct, in certain respects, was improper. The rebuke in costs was to signal the court’s expectation that parties will expect in a manner that is consistent with the Rules of Court.
[75]         Here, similar to LeClair, I find that the conduct of the defendants, both through the actions of their counsel, Mr. Robinson, and in an expert called on their behalf, Dr. Rees, was sufficiently outside the boundaries of expected behaviour to warrant rebuke via a denial of costs to which the defendants would otherwise be entitled.
[76]         In the circumstances, despite the September Offer and the defendants’ success on the issue of whether the plaintiff suffered an MTBI as a result of any of the four accidents, it is appropriate to deny the defendants the costs of trial leaving intact the plaintiff’s entitlement to costs up to and including the date of the offer to settle but no costs thereafter.

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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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