30 Jan Costs at Issue When Supreme Court Award Falls Within Provincial Court Limits

In Henderson v. McGregor, 2019 BCSC 1964, the plaintiff’s face was injured as a result of a road rage incident involving the defendant. The plaintiff was awarded $34,980 in damages for the injuries he sustained as a result of the unprovoked assault.

Counsel for both parties anticipated the possibility that if the defendant was found liable, the total damage award might fall under the $35,000 monetary limit of the Provincial Court. Since it did, the issue of costs had to be addressed.

Rule 14-1(10) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules states 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 there was sufficient reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court. The courts have held that “sufficient reason” must be limited to the circumstances that were known to the plaintiff at the time the action was initiated.

In this case, the judge was satisfied that when the action was commenced, the plaintiff did not know the quantum of the claim would be at or below $35,000, given the nature of his ongoing eye difficulties and anxiety. It was entirely likely the quantum would exceed that amount.

Quantum was not the only factor in the “sufficient reason” analysis. The need for representation and pre-trial procedures in light of the position taken by a defendant was also considered.  In the case at bar, the fact that the plaintiff was represented by counsel who utilized examination for discovery to impeach the defendant’s evidence-in-chief also established sufficient reasons for him to bring the action in Supreme Court.

In conclusion, the judge was satisfied that the plaintiff had established a sufficient reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court. Therefore, he was entitled to his costs.