27 Aug ICBC Ordered To Pay Double Costs For Not Accepting Reasonable Settlement Offer Prior To Trial

In Stark v. Bartier, 2019 BCSC 1097, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident and sued the Defendants for damages. The Plaintiff was awarded judgment in the amount of $126,430 at trial.

Since the award exceeded offers to settle made by the Plaintiff to ICBC before trial, the Plaintiff sought double costs. The Supreme Court Civil Rules allow double costs to be awarded if one party fails to accept an offer of settlement which would have avoided further legal proceedings.

The first consideration was whether the Plaintiff’s offers to settle were ones that ought reasonably to have been accepted by ICBC. There were two “formal” offers, one for $95,000 plus costs and a second for $70,000 plus costs that was left open until the Plaintiff reinstated the $95,000 offer. The judge held that the Plaintiff’s $70,000 offer was well-timed and substantive, offering a genuine compromise. ICBC was not lacking any information they needed to assess the offer or anticipate the eventual result at trial. As such, it was unreasonable for ICBC to refuse the $70,000 offer.

The second consideration was the relationship between the offer and the eventual judgment of the Court. The judgment exceeded the offer by 80%.  This favoured the Plaintiff’s application for double costs.

The third consideration was the relative financial circumstances of the parties, which the judge viewed as a neutral consideration in this case.

Finally, the judge was able to consider any other factors he thought appropriate. The Plaintiff pointed out that ICBC could have reduced the duration and expense of the litigation and freed up judicial resources had they accepted the offer.

The judge noted that ICBC’s unreasonable refusal of the $70,000 offer resulted in an award that was 80% higher and that should result in a costs sanction. The Plaintiff should not have been put to the trouble and expense of an unnecessary trial, and the costs order needed to reflect that. The judge allowed the Plaintiff’s application and awarded her double costs for trial preparation and the conduct of the trial.