ICBC punished with costs for “improper act”.

On February 20, 2018, the BC Supreme Court assessed costs against ICBC in Garayt v. Deneumoustier, 2018 BCSC 295, for failing to abide by “very clear case law”.

By way of background, when a lawyer in British Columbia receives trust funds a $15 “trust administration fee” must be assessed. For a description of the fee program, click  here.  This is a mandatory assessment. So, when a plaintiff retains a lawyer to resolve a dispute with ICBC this fee needs to be paid.  If the plaintiff is successful, ICBC ought to indemnify this fee as a disbursement.  They typically try to avoid doing so.

The BC Supreme Court  has now made it very clear that ICBC’s routine, and “misguided” refusal to reimburse this disbursement is unacceptable.  In ordering the disbursement paid along with a $250 award in further costs Registrar Cameron provided the following reasons:

[6]            I agree with these submissions and would add that on numerous occasions on assessments that I have presided over I have advised counsel for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, who are retained to defend these motor vehicle related personal injury claims under our provincial automobile insurance program, that unless there is an issue as to whether or not the Plaintiff’s counsel has received a deposit into trust in respect of resolution of the litigation, there is absolutely no justification to put the trust administration fee into issue.

[7]            I have said to counsel, who come with instructions to oppose the TAF disbursement that those instructions are simply misguided and the matter ought not to be raised on an assessment unless there is an issue about the deposit being made. There is no such issue in this case.

[8]            I have jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 14-1(14) to award costs arising from an improper act or omission. The applicable Rule reads as follows:

Costs arising from improper act or omission

(14)   If anything is done or omitted improperly or unnecessarily, by or on behalf of a party, the court or a registrar may order

(a)  that any costs arising from or associated with any matter related to the act or omission not be allowed to the party, or

(b) that the party pay the costs incurred by any other party by reason of the act or omission.       

[9]          In this case the Plaintiff was put to unnecessary cost to address this objection to the TAF and I am satisfied that it is appropriate pursuant to Rule 14-1(14)(b) to allow an additional amount for costs in recognition of the failure of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to abide by the very clear case law not to make TAF an issue unless there is a proper basis for doing so.

[10]        Finding that there was no proper basis in this case and that the concession was only made this morning, I allow the Plaintiff an additional $250 in costs.