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Supreme Court Costs Set By Reasonable Expectation of Damages at Outset

In Greenlees v. Starline Windows Ltd., 2018 BCSC 1457, the British Columbia Supreme Court set the plaintiff’s costs by looking at a reasonable assessment of possible damages at the time the action was commenced. Damages were found by the court to be less than $35,000, which is the current Small Claims Court limit.

The plaintiff sued for wrongful dismissal. His lawyer argued three reasons for suing in Supreme Court instead of Small Claims Court:

  • a) He might have been able to make a claim based on his forecast annual income of $100,000 per year;
  • b) Oral discovery seemed appropriate here; and
  • c) Summary trial was available in Supreme Court, so the case was heard in a day, not the two or three days a Small Claims trial would have taken.

The BCSC accepted the first and second reasons together. It was reasonable to think the claim was worth more than $35,000, so a responsible lawyer would usually sue in the Supreme Court to seek the full amount. The third reason was rejected: most Supreme Court cases are more expensive to the parties. The procedure used here happened to be quicker and cheaper, but that was not a reason for the plaintiff to recover his costs.

The defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff’s costs, but on the lesser amount set by rule 15-1 for fast track cases.

Case summary by Caroline Alexander