Party v Party Court Costs

Rocky partyParty v Party Court Costs


Semenoff Estate v Bridgeman 2014 BCSC 1845 involves the Court’s approach to assessing costs against a plaintiff who acted for himself personally in a nine day trial that was dismissed with costs for part of the trial and double costs for a portion thereafter.

The plaintiff’s actions were deemed excessive and wasteful by the Court, who awarded $53,000 in costs, plus taxes and disbursements, all totalling $74,000.:

8      The cause of action alleged that the defendant was negligent in allowing the property owned by Bill to pass to his siblings, thereby depriving the plaintiff of his alleged inheritance. Despite the underlying simplicity of the case, the plaintiff filed four sets of pleadings: the first on October 30, 2007; the second on November 4, 2011; the third on March 23, 2012 and; the last on February 6, 2013. In describing the pleadings, in Semenoff Estate v. Bridgeman, 2013 BCSC 1022 (B.C. S.C.), Mr. Justice McKinnon stated:
[25] The plaintiff’s pleadings go on for pages making all sorts of claims, including claims in contract. The trial management judge described them as “prolix”. I agree and go further to label them, for the most part, incomprehensible, vexatious and frivolous.
[26] The plaintiff seems incapable of making simple claims which would be appropriate to his perceived view of the facts. When one wades through the prolix pleadings and considers the evidence proffered, the essence of his complaint is the failure of Mr. Bridgeman to investigate the state of title which, if done, ought to have prompted him to sever the joint tenancy and thereby protect the “estate” of Bill Semenoff. If that had been done, on Bill’s death, his interest would have passed to his estate whose heirs are Robert and his brother Howard.
9      The trial had been scheduled for four days but ended up taking nine days, almost all of which was entirely devoted to the plaintiff’s case. The trial judge characterized the plaintiff as being “preoccupied with conspiracy theories” (Semenoff Estate v. Bridgeman, 2013 BCSC 1022 (B.C. S.C.) at para. 37) and included requests from the plaintiff to “examine all the defendant’s closed files for the past 30 or 40 years to see if he could find
The Court awarded


                   THE  LAW of Party v Party Costs

Supreme Court Civil Rule 14-1(2) provides:

Assessment of party and party costs
(2) On an assessment of party and party costs under Appendix B, a registrar must
(a) allow those fees under Appendix B that were proper or reasonably necessary to conduct the proceeding, and
(b) consider Rule 1-3 and any case plan order.
16      In approaching the issue of whether work for which costs are claimed and claimed outlays should be allowed, an objective standard is to be applied. A step or expense was “necessary” if it was indispensable to the conduct of the proceeding (McKenzie v. Darke, 2003 BCSC 138 (B.C. S.C.)) (Registrar); Van Daele v. Van Daele (1983), 56 B.C.L.R. 178 (B.C. C.A.).
17      A step was “proper” if it was not necessary but was nevertheless reasonably taken or incurred for the purpose of the proceeding: McKenzie v. Darke, supra; McKenna v. Anderson, 2005 BCSC 84 (B.C. S.C.) (Registrar).
18      Registrars are to disallow costs proved to have been incurred or increased through extravagance, negligence or mistake, or by reason of the payment of unjustified charges or expenses (Bell v. Fantini (1981), 32 B.C.L.R. 322 (B.C. S.C.)). The defendant alleges the proceeding was unnecessarily and unreasonably lengthened and complicated by the actions of the plaintiff.
19      The defendant relies upon Kemp v. Wittenberg, 2001 BCSC 273 (B.C. S.C.) at para. 9, wherein the court stated:
[9] …. A sense of fairness and understanding granted to unrepresented parties ought never to extend to the degree where courts do not give effect to the existing law, or where the issue of fairness to an unrepresented litigant is permitted to override the rights of a defendant party.
Applicable Principles
77      The applicable legal principles which must be applied with respect to disbursements are summarized in Turner v. Whittaker, 2013 BCSC 712 (B.C. S.C.) at para. 5, wherein Master MacNaughton stated:
[5] Counsel were also able to agree on the following legal principles which are applicable on an assessment of disbursements:
1. Rule 14-1(5) requires an assessing officer to determine which disbursements were necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of a proceeding and to allow a reasonable amount for those disbursements.
2. The consideration of whether a disbursement was necessarily or properly incurred is case-and circumstance-specific and must take into account proportionality under Rule 1-3. (Fairchild v. British Columbia (Vancouver Coastal Health Authority), 2012 BCSC 1207).
3. The time for assessing whether a disbursement was necessarily or properly incurred is when the disbursement was incurred not with the benefit of hindsight. (Van Daele v. Van Daele, 56 B.C.L.R. 176 (SC) rev’d 56 B.C.L.R. 178 at para. 4 (CA))
4. A necessary disbursement is one which is essential to conduct litigation; a proper one is one which is not necessary but is reasonably incurred for the purposes of the proceeding. (McKenzie v. Darke, 2003 BCSC 138, para. 17-18)
5. The role of an assessing officer is not to second guess a competent counsel doing a competent job solely because other counsel might have handled the matter differently. (McKenzie v. Darke, 2003 BCSC 138, para. 21)

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