This personal injury claimant offered to settle with ICBC for $60,000.00 one day before trial. The offer was only open for acceptance until that same afternoon at 4 p.m. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, insurer for the defendant, rejected the offer and the trial judge awarded the claimant over $67,000.00 (Barnes v. Lima, 2014 BCSC 1475). Before trial ICBC’s best offer was $39,650.00 plus funding for 12 active rehabilitation sessions.
Amazingly, despite clearly winning the case the injury claimant was denied double costs, which would have added an additional $5,040 towards his legal fees. This was a fast track personal injury lawsuit commenced under Rule 15-1 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.
The judge characterized the additional amount awarded as “only” $7,214.19 more than the $60,000.00 offer to ICBC and admonishes the claimant for not making the offer weeks earlier. Yet the lawyer for ICBC candidly acknowledged to the court that his client had sufficient time before the trial in which to consider the offer.
This case will breed uncertainty for parties as it appears that the defendants were in a good position to be able to analyze and respond to the offer within hours, if not minutes. In similar cases the court has found that the party receiving the offer had sufficient time to assess the reasonableness of an offer to settle.
The court also did not refer to Brewster v. Li, 2014 BCSC 463 , Uppal v. Rawlins, 2010 BCSC 11, Mr. Justice Grauer, or Enviro West Inc. v. Copper Mountain Mining Corp., 2011 BCSC 107 wherein the offer which was only open for less than two days was found to provide the claimant with adequate time to properly consider the offer.
Issue: Should additional costs be automatic if a party beats an offer to settle?