As anyone who has ever been a party to litigation (and every litigation lawyer) knows, the costs of any court proceeding is a looming threat that surrounds the entire process. The sanction of costs is meant to discourage frivolous and vexatious litigation that has no chance of success. It is also meant to temper the zeal of the litigating parties (even where there are very real issues to be tried) by making them think hard about the necessary steps and how they conduct themselves in the litigation.  

The court has broad discretion to award costs under section 131 of the Courts of Justice Act. The factors the court considers in exercising that discretion are found in Rule 57.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure and include the result in the proceeding, any offer to settle made in writing, the principle of indemnity, the amount of costs that an unsuccessful party could reasonably expect to pay, the amount claimed and the amount recovered in the proceeding, the apportionment of liability, the complexity of the proceeding and the importance of the issues. 

Notably, the court will also consider, the conduct of any party that tended to shorten or to unnecessarily lengthen the proceeding, whether any step was improper, vexatious, unnecessary, taken through negligence, mistake or excessive caution, and a party’s denial of or refusal to admit anything that should have been admitted.

Costs sanctions are just one of the many mechanisms built into the litigation process designed to encourage settlement. For example, matters commenced in the Toronto Estates Court are subject to mandatory mediation, which means that the parties must attend with counsel to enter into in good faith settlement negotiations assisted by a professional and neutral third party.

If mediation fails, a pre-trial provides the opportunity for court-assisted settlement whereby a judge will assist and encourage the parties to settle.

Certainly, it is always better to be a part of the resolution, which provides a measure of control over costs and other factors. A much more attractive option than the risk involved with having no control over the outcome. 

Food for thought for all the litigants out there.

Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis