This weekend marks the end of the 105th Tour de France. This year’s race has been full of controversies, first as a result of allegations of doping by pre-race favourite and four-time winner Chris Froome (and a related threatened cyclist strike) and subsequently ranging from disqualification of one cyclist for punching another to the inadvertent tear-gassing of cyclists by French police.
This spring, news surfaced regarding a settlement negotiated in respect of the claims against controversial cycling figure Lance Armstrong. Armstrong’s former teammate, Floyd Landis, had commenced proceedings against him in 2010 under the False Claims Act. The United States government became involved in the fraud proceedings in 2013 after Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs after years of public denial.
The litigation commenced by Landis was settled earlier this year. Terms of settlement were reported to involve a payment by Armstrong of $5 million (of the $100 million claimed against him), as well as a payment to Landis of $1.65 million in legal fees. Accordingly, Landis’ one-quarter share in the settlement payment is less than what he will receive in legal fees.
It is not unusual in our work to see settlement terms involving the payment of one or more party’s legal fees as part of or in addition to a settlement payment. Especially where litigation spans the better part of a decade, the legal fees incurred can rival or exceed the quantum of the settlement payment itself and may form an important part of negotiations.
Have a great weekend,
Ontario is a jurisdiction where parties are encouraged to settle their legal disputes well before reaching the ultimate hearing of a matter, and as such it is not uncommon for opposing parties to exchange offers to settle throughout the duration of the dispute.
An additional incentive provided for under the Rules of Civil Procedure to settle the matter is what is called a “Rule 49” offer to settle. Generally, it operates by ensuring a costs award that is favourable to a party who:
(i) makes an offer to settle that complies with the specifications of Rule 49; and
(ii) achieves a more favourable result at the hearing than offered under the offer to settle.
An offer to settle under this rule can be served by a plaintiff, defendant, applicant or respondent in an action, application, counterclaim, third party claim, crossclaim or motion. This means that this rule is applicable to motions on discrete issues within a legal dispute and is not limited only to offers made to settle the entire dispute.
In order to be eligible for the benefits provided under Rule 49, the following requirements must be met:
(i) the offer to settle must be made at least 7 days prior to the commencement of the hearing;
(ii) the offer to settle must be fixed, certain and understandable; and
(iii) it cannot be withdrawn or expire before the commencement of the hearing.
In deciding whether or not to make an offer to settle under this rule, it is important to take into account the fact that the court, in exercising its discretion with respect to costs, may take into account any offer to settle made in writing, the date the offer was made and the terms of the offer.
Where a plaintiff or applicant makes an offer under this rule and the judgment is as or more favourable to that party than the offer to settle, the plaintiff or applicant is entitled to the following:
(i) costs on a partial indemnity basis to the date of the offer to settle; and
(ii) costs on a substantial indemnity basis from that date forward.
Where a defendant or respondent makes an offer under this rule and the judgment is as or less favourable to the plaintiff or applicant than the terms of the offer to settle, the following applies:
(i) the plaintiff or applicant is entitled to partial indemnity costs to the date that the offer to settle was served; and
(ii) the defendant or respondent is entitled to partial indemnity costs from that date forward.
In the event that a party that made an offer to settle under this rule wishes to withdraw it, such withdrawal must be clear and unequivocal.
For more information on the manner in which Rule 49 operates, the Ontario Bar Association summarized the general rules and case law related to it here: https://www.oba.org/getattachment/Sections/Civil-Litigation/Resources/Resources/Litigation-Fundamentals-Sunrise-Series/Offers-to-Settle/Rule49OffersToSettle.pdf
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A litigant in his late 80’s was recently sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of a Court order.
The litigant was found to be a vexatious litigant in 2008. The Vexatious Litigant Order precluded him from commencing or continuing any judicial proceeding or motion without leave of a judge of the Superior Court. Further, the litigant was not permitted to seek leave against certain named parties unless certain outstanding costs awards were paid in full.
The litigant was found to be in contempt of this 2008 Order on October 20, 2017. The penalty phase of the motion was heard on January 4, 2018, and reasons were released on January 5, 2018.
In the penalty phase decision, the motions judge reviewed the court’s power when determining a penalty for contempt. The court may order that the person in contempt:
(a) be imprisoned for such period and on such terms as are just;
(b) be imprisoned if the person fails to comply with the terms off the order;
(c) pay a fine;
(d) do or refrain from doing an act;
(e) pay such costs as are just; and
(f) comply with any other order that the judge considers necessary.
The judge went on to set out the principals of sentencing, which are similar to those found in criminal law. The underlying purpose of contempt orders is to “compel obedience and punish disobedience”, and “the contemnor must be deterred from further acts of contempt. Perhaps more importantly, respect for our courts must be maintained and violations punished adequately in order to deter future violations”.
The court went on to consider
- Any mitigating or aggravating factors;
- Whether the sentencing objectives could be accomplished without a period of sentencing, and if so, how; and
- If the answer to 2 was no, what period of jail time was appropriate.
As an aggravating factor, the court noted that since the 2008 Vexatious Litigant Order was made, the litigant has carried on in complete disregard of that Order. The litigant was previously found in contempt of the 2008 Order, but because of his age (he was 81 at the time), he was not jailed. Further, there was no apology or expression of remorse from the litigant.
The court accepted that a fine was not appropriate, as the imposition of a fine would only make it less likely that any costs awards would ever be paid by the litigant. The court also noted that the litigant was previously warned by a judge that if he was subsequently found in contempt, he could well face jail time. Additionally, the litigant had previously been committed to prison overnight for a separate act of contempt.
In light of the nature of the contempt, the court considered a sentence of 6 to 9 months. However, due to the litigant’s age (“either 88 or 89”) and alleged health issues, a sentence of 30 days was determined to be appropriate. Costs were awarded against the litigant on a substantial indemnity basis in the amount of $15,280.50.
(As an aside, the litigant has brought a motion to discharge, set aside, vary or give directions with respect to the finding of contempt, which is scheduled to be heard on January 12, 2018. Accordingly, the sentence is to begin on January 12, 2018 at 4 pm, unless the judge hearing the motion to vary, etc. orders otherwise.)
Have a great weekend.
I have blogged about assisted suicide in the past with reference to the Canadian television show Mary Kills People. The availability of assisted suicide continues to be a subject of public interest as each province deals with the implementation of the outcome of Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).
As reported by The Globe and Mail, one particular doctor has removed himself from a roster of doctors who will administer assisted deaths because of changes to the physician fee schedule in British Columbia. Notwithstanding his support for assisted death, Dr. Jesse Pewarchuk of Vancouver Island wrote a letter to his colleagues to explain that the new fee schedule made “medical assistance in dying” economically untenable for his practice.
According to Kelly Grant of the Globe and Mail,
“Under the new fee schedule, B.C. physicians will now be paid $40 for every 15 minutes, up to a maximum of 90 minutes, to conduct the first of two eligibility assessments required by law. Each of the assessments has to be provided by a different clinician. That works out to $240, a significant increase from the $100.25 interim assessment fee that has been in place in B.C. since shortly after assisted death became legal.
For second assessments, the time is capped at 75 minutes.
In the case of providing an assisted death, the province has set a flat fee of $200, plus a home-visit fee of $113.15.”
Within the same article, it was reported that Ontario does not have specific billing codes for this type of medical service at this present time.
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We previously blogged about the decision in Ozerdinc Family Trust v Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, 2017 ONSC 6, where a failure to advise of the deemed disposition date of trust assets resulted in an avoidable tax liability. Recently, additional reasons were released which set out the court’s decision with respect to costs arising from the motion for partial summary judgment. The court awarded costs to the successful plaintiffs in the amount of $160,889.76 (including tax) plus disbursements of $100,000.00
The costs decision is interesting as it thoroughly considers a number of elements of the litigation in relation to the factors listed in Rule 57.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Interestingly, while the court held that the matter was “obviously a very complex matter”, it nonetheless concluded that the costs claimed by the plaintiffs were higher than required for a motion of this nature. The court also noted, in considering the time spent by the plaintiffs on the motion for partial summary judgment, that the “total amount of time spent exceeds a fair amount and that which would reasonably be expected to be required in the circumstances”. This conclusion was made despite the court’s acknowledgment that the bulk of the plaintiff’s time was spent by junior counsel.
Another interesting comment was related to the costs awards with respect to disbursements. It seems that a large portion of the plaintiffs’ disbursements were expended to retain several experts. However, the court found that the amount claimed by the plaintiffs was out of proportion with the amounts spent by the defendants to address similar issues, and reduced the award for disbursements accordingly.
This decision may serve as a helpful reminder to litigators to be aware of the amount of their legal fees and disbursements. One should also try to ensure, as much as possible, that costs are proportional, both with respect to the size of the matter at issue, but also, based on this costs decision, with respect to the costs that may be incurred by the other parties.
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This week on Hull on Estates, Jonathon Kappy and Doreen So discuss the costs decision in the Pochopsky Estate and whether it is pragmatic to pursue an application to pass accounts in certain circumstances.
Typically, costs awards are not made until the conclusion of litigation. However, in rare circumstances, courts may order that costs are paid to a party at an earlier point during the litigation to assist them with the funding of the litigation itself, even if it is not yet known which of the party or parties will ultimately be successful at trial.
In what circumstances will a court order the payment of legal fees on an interim basis? The Supreme Court of Canada outlined the test for granting an order for interim costs to fund litigation in British Columbia (Minister of Forests) v. Okanagan Indian Band. The Court summarized the test as follows:
- the party seeking the order must be impecunious to the extent that, without such an order, that party would be deprived of the opportunity to proceed with the case;
- the claimant must establish a prima facie case of sufficient merit to warrant pursuit; and
- there must be special circumstances sufficient to satisfy the court that the case is within the narrow class of cases where this extraordinary exercise of its powers is appropriate.
In the Okanagan Indian Band decision, the Supreme Court considered family law disputes as one of the few unique exceptions to the general rule that the costs of an action or application only be awarded at the conclusion of litigation. One factor that the Court refers to as making interim costs awards suitable in family law matters is the presumption that the property in dispute is to be shared by the parties in some way. Ontario courts have acknowledged this presumption to be the basis of allowing interim payments to fund ongoing legal costs in estate litigation, suggesting that the payment of costs to fund the litigation can be accounted for in the final decision. However, a party to family or estate proceedings still needs to satisfy the above test before an interim costs award will normally be made.
In estate litigation, it is not uncommon for the Court to direct the payment of funds for use toward one or more party’s legal fees out of the assets of the estate while litigation is ongoing. Most often, the party to whom interim costs are paid will be entitled to a share of the assets of the estate whether he or she is successful in the litigation or not. The interim costs award can be deducted from the distributions that are ultimately made to that party. While rarely made within contexts other than family and estate litigation, interim costs orders can allow a party that may otherwise be unable to fund litigation to advance or respond to legal proceedings that affect his or her entitlements as the beneficiary of an estate.
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