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May 7, 2014

Plaintiffs Denied Costs of Jury Trial

A London judge recently denied costs to plaintiffs following a jury trial which saw them recover less than 10% of their claim.

In Mayer v. 1474479 Ontario Ltd., 2014 ONSC 2622 (S.C.J.), the defendant admitted liability for a 2008 motor vehicle accident.  The action proceeded to a jury trial on damages.  The Statement of Claim sought damages of $1.1 million, and mid-trial the prayer for relief was amended to $2 million.  The jury awarded the primary plaintiff $137,000 (reduced to $116,000 after the deductible and collateral benefits), her daughter $3,300 (reduced to $0 after the deductible) and her husband $0, for a total recover of $119,300.  The plaintiffs sought costs of $422,000.

Justice Leach went through the factors in r. 57.01.  Some of the factors considered were:

1.  The plaintiffs fell "drastically short" of the amounts claimed;
2.  The time and resources devoted by the plaintiffs were disproportionate to what the case was worth, as determined by the jury; 
3.  There were disbursements for experts who either did not add much to the proceeding or overlapped with other experts;
4.  The case was scheduled for 2 weeks and ran to 4 weeks, for which the plaintiffs were largely responsible; and
5.  Various disbursements were not permissible in any event, such as a "day in the life" video which was not used, the cost of a trial that was adjourned by the plaintiffs, and the cost of a voluntary mediation.

The defendants made several offers; however, they were not r. 49 offers as they failed to separate interest from damages, did not make it clear whether the offer was global for all plaintiffs or severable, and were not clear as to whether the plaintiffs could retain future collateral benefits.  But for the deficiencies in the offers, the defendants would have been entitled to partial indemnity costs in the amount of $181,000.  Even though they were not r. 49 offers, the defendants' offers were taken into account in exercising the Court's discretion.  Justice Leach held that each party should bear their own costs.

Mayer should be reviewed by counsel as guidance in making offers, as well as in deciding what resources should be put into a particular file.

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