Tag: Rutter v. Vadnais

Plaintiff Stripped of Costs For Failing to Beat Defence Offer

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, stripping a Plaintiff of post offer costs after receiving a jury award less than a pre-trial defence settlement offer.
In today’s case (Rutter v. Vadnais) the Plaintiff was injured and sued for damages.  About 2 years prior to trial the Defendant offered to settle for $50,000.  The offer was rejected and at trial a jury awarded global damages of $20,000.
The Court stripped the Plaintiff of costs from the time of the offer forward which would significantly impact the award given the costs of running the trial.  In reaching this decision Madam Justice Brown provided the following reasons:

[12]         Turning to the effect of the offers exchanged in this matter, Rule 9-1(5) and (6) provides:

Cost options

(5) In a proceeding in which an offer to settle has been made, the court may do one or more of the following:

(a) deprive a party of any or all of the costs, including any or all of the disbursements, to which the party would otherwise be entitled in respect of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery or service of the offer to settle;

(b) award double costs of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery or service of the offer to settle;

(c) award to a party, in respect of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery or service of the offer to settle, costs to which the party would have been entitled had the offer not been made;

(d) if the offer was made by a defendant and the judgment awarded to the plaintiff was no greater than the amount of the offer to settle, award to the defendant the defendant’s costs in respect of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery or service of the offer to settle.

[am. B.C. Reg. 119/2010, Sch. A, s. 21.]

Considerations of court

(6) In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a) whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or served or on any later date;

(b) the relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c) the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d) any other factor the court considers appropriate.

[13]         The plaintiff in this case had strong medical opinions to support her position. The defence position was contrary to the weight of the medical evidence. Although the jury award is less than that offered by the defendant, I am not persuaded that the offer made was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted either on the date that the offer was delivered or any later date. As Madam Justice Adair said in Currie v. McKinnon, 2012 BCSC 1165 at para. 20: “While the purpose of the Rule is to encourage reasonable settlements, parties should not be unduly deterred from bringing meritorious, but uncertain, claims because of the fear of a punishing costs order.”

[14]         Second, while the amount recovered is less than the settlement offer, that is rarely a determinative factor, particularly as jury awards are more difficult to predict than judge assessments (Smagh v. Bumbrah, 2009 BCSC 623 at para. 13).

[15]         The relative financial circumstances are also a neutral factor in this case. Although Ms. Rutter does have some assets, I am not able to say that losing her costs or paying Ms. Vadnais her costs would not have a dramatic financial effect on Ms. Rutter.

[16]         Finally, although the defendant suggests that the history of negotiations between the parties is such that the offer of $50,000 was reasonable in response to the plaintiffs immediately preceding offer of $61,000, I am persuaded by the plaintiff’s response submissions that there were good reasons for her increasing her offer beyond $61,000 “as her retraining exposed her to physical demands of what she could expect to encounter ‘on the ward’ this showed her that her loss was likely to be more than she had previously thought.” The offer of $61,000 was made at the start of her retraining.

[17]         In conclusion, having considered the submissions of the parties and the factors set out in Rule 9-1, the plaintiff will have her costs of the action at Scale B until March 15, 2014, a reasonable time in which to consider the defendant’s offer. The parties will bear their own costs thereafter.

Contact

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer