Costs are traditionally awarded to compensate victorious
litigants for expenses incurred in prosecuting or defending a legal
claim. The rules governing costs awards in British Columbia
will be substantially amended as of July 1, 2016. These
amendments will affect costs for all cases settled or tried after
The amendments to the rules are an attempt by BC lawmakers to
provide increased clarity and consistency in costs awards.
Costs will be limited and fixed for specific items, certain costs
will be increased and some costs will be eliminated.
Amendments to the costs tariff (the "Tariff") include
the elimination of the "scale of costs" as a means to
assess costs. Rather than a scale of costs described as
"A," "B" or "C," the rules will
specify an assessment of costs based on the difficulty of the case,
now described as "less than ordinary difficulty,"
"ordinary difficulty" or "more than ordinary
Tariff items will be consolidated from 48 items to 13 items and
will no longer assign a number of units for certain items.
Rather, Tariff items will prescribe fixed dollar amounts claimable
by a party for that step in the litigation.
A party will no longer have discretion in claiming costs where a
Tariff item is expressed in terms of number of days of
attendance. For example, costs will be fixed at $1,000 for
attendance at case planning conferences and mediation for each
A party will have two or three costs options for some Tariff
items, including Tariff items 1 (correspondence), 3 (process for
giving or obtaining discovery), 9 (preparation for and attendance
at trial), and 12 (written argument at applications). The
discretion in entitlement is based on the difficulty of the case;
the more difficult the case, the higher the costs allowed.
There will also be substantial changes to the rules governing
costs for default judgment and applications. Costs awarded
for default judgment will be increased relative to the value of the
With respect to applications, the entitlement to costs will not
be assessed on a scale. Rather, for each half day of
attendance, the successful party will be automatically entitled to
a costs award of $1,000. If the application is unopposed, the
successful party will be automatically entitled to a costs award of
Tariff costs rarely cover the successful party's actual
costs. In the past, party and party costs have only partially
reimbursed a party for expenses incurred during litigation.
Lack of full indemnity for actual legal costs may have reflected
the court's attempt to strike a balance between the right to
compensation and encouraging access to the courts.
Through these amendments, by setting dollar amounts for the
Tariff items and increasing certain costs above the limits
currently allowed, a successful party may now recoup more of their
costs than before.
The implication for at-fault defendants, of course, is that
claims may now cost more to settle and hear through trial. To
the extent insurers can negotiate settlements inclusive of costs,
they should endeavour to do so to achieve some costs-savings.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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