Self-represented litigant to pay double costs to insurer.

On September 28, 2015, the BC Supreme Court was required to consider what type of costs award should be granted against a self-represented individual who was unsuccessful at trial.

In Wright v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2015 BCSC 1899, the insurer made an offer to settle the case prior to trial. The plaintiff did not accept. Ultimately, the claim was dismissed and the plaintiff received no award. The Court held that the insurer’s offer to settle ought reasonably to have been accepted, as the plaintiff’s view of his entitlement and likelihood of recovery was unrealistic.

The Court then addressed the relative financial circumstances of the parties. While it was clear that the Insurer had a far greater financial ability to defend the claim than the plaintiff to prosecute, the Court found that this factor did not weigh against the Insurer. There was no evidence that the insurer had used its greater financial resources in a way that distorted the litigation process. The Court held that the plaintiff conducted the litigation in a way that “seemed designed to maximize the litigation expense” for the Insurer, in circumstances where the plaintiff had no personal financial stake in terms of incurring legal costs. The Court was critical of the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Rules as well as directions, deadlines and orders. The Court pointed to the plaintiff’s submissions at the costs hearing as illustrative: an affidavit of 117 paragraphs with eighty-three exhibits.

The Court held that the plaintiff had not shown any regard for the costs consequences of his conduct, he ignored everything he did not agree with, and made scandalous accusations about defence counsel. In those circumstances, the Court ordered costs to the Insurer, with double costs from the date of the offer to settle.