In the personal injury case of Hakimpour v. Grimm, 2024 BCSC 685, Justice Tucker provided a detailed ruling on the decision not to award double costs following the plaintiff’s personal injury claim dismissal. The defendant, insured by ICBC, sought double costs post-trial based on a settlement offer of $58,866 made prior to trial commencement, which was not accepted by the plaintiff. The court had to decide if double costs were warranted under the circumstances and ultimately decided against it.

At trial the court accepted that the defendant did not see the plaintiff, a pedestrian, until virtually the moment of impact notwithstanding that she was travelling at an appropriate rate of speed, watching the road and paying attention. The plaintiff was not crossing the street in a reasonable manner. She was jaywalking in heavy rain, in the middle of a dark block, in dark clothes and carrying a dark umbrella, and thus not visible until the last moment. Her claim was dismissed.

ICBC Application for Double Costs

The timing and reasonableness of the settlement offer made by ICBC was critical to this decision. Although the offer  of $58,688 was much lower than the plaintiff’s damages claim, it was made shortly before the trial and only available for a brief window—just over three hours—on the day it was formalized. Justice Tucker evaluated this under Rule 9-1 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, which involves considering the timeliness of the offer and whether it ought to have been reasonably accepted at the time it was made.

Justice Tucker highlighted that the “reasonableness” of accepting a settlement offer does not solely hinge on the offer’s terms relative to the trial outcome but must also consider the context and circumstances when the offer was open for acceptance. The short window did not provide the plaintiff with adequate time to consult and make an informed decision, particularly given the complexities surrounding the assessment of such an offer.

The ruling also examined other factors under Rule 9-1(6), such as the relationship between the settlement offer’s terms and the final judgment, the financial circumstances of the parties, and other relevant conditions. The court found that while the defendant’s offer was lower than the claim amount, the lack of sufficient time for the plaintiff to consider the offer played a crucial role in deciding against awarding double costs.

The court’s analysis also included considerations of fairness and the intended policy behind the rule, which aims to encourage settlement and avoid unnecessary trials. By emphasizing the procedural aspects and the fairness of the offer’s timing, the decision highlights the discretion in cost awards and the importance of reasonable opportunities for settlement evaluation.

Defendant entitled to costs at Scale B throughout

Ultimately the Judge awarded ICBC their regular costs. This decision reflects a balance between encouraging reasonable settlement offers and ensuring that such offers are made in a manner that allows fair and adequate consideration by all parties involved.

The court concluded that the plaintiff was not given a reasonable opportunity to consider the defendant’s offer, thus, double costs were not awarded. The decision elaborates on the complexities involved in cost decisions and the factors courts consider to ensure justice is fairly administered.

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