Plaintiff awarded double costs after beating formal offer by $300,000

In reasons for judgment released last Friday, the court in Risling v. Riches-Glazema, 2017 BCSC 252, awarded the plaintiff double costs after the plaintiff beat the defendant’s formal offer by a substantial margin.  The court also refused to stay the costs award pending the outcome of the defendant’s appeal.  In Risling, the plaintiff made an offer to settle for $315,000 and was ultimately awarded $622,500 at trial.  In awarding double costs from the date of the offer and dismissing the application to stay the costs award, Mr. Justice Affleck said as follows:

[7]             In my view:

a) The plaintiff's case was well known to the defendants at the time of the offer. The plaintiff had been examined for discovery on two occasions; had attended two medical examinations at the request of the defendants, and a mediation had taken place in June 2016;

b) the offer was made one week before the trial began which gave the defendants a full opportunity to consider it;

c) the offer had a relationship to the claim and could not be characterized as a “nuisance offer”; and

d) the offer was expressed in plain language and thus easily evaluated.

[8]             The final judgment of the court greatly exceeded the offer. The plaintiff submits her offer was a true attempt to reach a reasonable compromise of the claim and that the rationale for the double cost rule is to encourage parties to settle by taking a realistic view of the probable outcome of a trial. The plaintiff submits that rationale would be thwarted if in the present circumstances she is not entitled to double costs.

...

[10]         The defendants submit their limited understanding of the case made it difficult to quantify the claim and that, while the rationale for the rule for double costs is acknowledged, the defendants ought not to have been deterred from defending the claim for fear of a “punishing costs award”. Currie v. McKinnon, 2012 BCSC 1165 is relied on in support of that argument.

[11]         The defendants also submit that “no rationale for the offer was provided” in the plaintiff's letter of August 15, 2016.

[12]         I do not agree that no rationale was provided. The plaintiff described the heads of damages she would advance at the trial and advised that the offer took into account “Part 7 Benefits paid or payable pursuant to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act”. Furthermore, the defendants had an opportunity on the mediation to canvas fully with the plaintiff's legal advisers the extent of the plaintiff's claim and the evidence at trial which would be advanced to support the claim.

...

15]         The plaintiff is entitled to the costs of this action including double costs from the date of the offer.

[16]         The defendants’ request a stay of this costs award pending the outcome of their appeal. I was not referred to authority.

[17]         I consider the better procedure to be for the defendants to apply to the Court of Appeal. In Western Forest Products Inc. v. Capital Regional District, 2009 BCCA 80, Frankel J.A. refused a stay of a trial award of costs pending an appeal but found the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to do so.

The full decision can be found here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/02/2017BCSC0252.htm