Court Costs For Awards of Under $25,000

Plaintiff could never have reasonably expected to obtain an amount in excess of the Small Claims jurisdiction of $25,000

In BRAR V. KAUR, 2010 BCSC 1220 (“BRAR”), a judgment released on August 30, 2010, the Court considered whether the Plaintiff was entitled to costs despite bringing an action in Supreme Court which could have been brought under the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court.  Liability had been admitted by the Defendant, so all that remained was for the Court to assess the amount of damages suffered as a result of the motor vehicle accident at issue and deal with the matter of whether the Plaintiff was entitled to his costs.

The Court began its analysis by pointing out at paragraph 56 that Rule 14-1(10) of the SUPREME COURT CIVIL RULES, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 states that “a plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the SMALL CLAIMS ACT is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders”. Because the Court in BRAR found that there was no judicial precedent which provided any basis for an award which could exceed the $25,000 limit on the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, it found Rule 14-1(10) to be applicable.

After a careful consideration of the case law advanced by both the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the Court determined at paragraph 58 that “on the existing case law the most the plaintiff could reasonably think he could be awarded for his non-pecuniary damages is somewhere between $10,000-$20,000 so he could never have reasonably expected to obtain an amount in excess of the Small Claims jurisdiction of $25,000”. The Plaintiff in BRAR was ultimately awarded non-pecuniary damages of $4,000.

While the Plaintiff argued that there was a good reason to bring the claim in the Supreme Court due to the fact that the Defendant did not admit liability until after her examination for discovery (a process not available in Small Claims Court), the Court found that liability could have been established even in the absence of the discovery process. This was because the nature of the rear-end collision at issue was such that a finding of liability against the Defendant was virtually assured. The procurement of an admission of liability under the Supreme Court discovery process was not a “sufficient reason” to overcome the fact that the action could have been brought in Small Claims Court, as contemplated by Rule 14-1(10).

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