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Getting Double Costs with a Nominal Offer to Settle

The reasons in Charland v Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association and Wheeler 2013 BCSC 2349 recently affirmed that double costs may be awarded where a successful defendant made a nominal offer to settle.

The action involved an altercation between two fathers whose sons were involved in Pee Wee baseball. The plaintiff sought damages for assault. After a three day trial the court found that the fight was consensual and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. Prior to trial the defendant made three offers to settle including an offer for $5,000 just prior to examinations for discovery and a final offer of $250 based on the discovery evidence of the plaintiff. That offer included an explanation as to why the plaintiff’s case was problematic, including credibility of the plaintiff and the nature and extent of his injuries.

Following judgment the defendant sought double costs. In awarding double costs Madam Justice Watchuk found that it was incumbent on the plaintiff to make a careful assessment of his case throughout the litigation, and that given his knowledge of the evidentiary problems in his case his decision not to accept the offers of $5,000 and $250 was unreasonable.

This case highlights the utility of making formal offers to settle, even if the offer is nominal, in circumstances where a plaintiff is intent on pursuing a seemingly meritless claim.

Case summary prepared by: Caroline Alexander