Small Claims Costs and Penalties (20:XV)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 6, 2021.|
The CRT member will then make a decision based on the evidence and arguments. Their decision does not include communications between parties from the negotiation and facilitation phases as those are confidential. The decision is usually available online, in writing. This final decision is binding and enforceable. For more information about the process, visit https://civilresolutionbc.ca/tribunal-process/tribunal-decision-process/. The court expects parties to act reasonably and follow the rules. Parties who do not follow the rules or are unsuccessful may be liable for certain costs and penalties.
A. Costs to Successful Party
Generally, the unsuccessful party must pay the successful party’s expenses (SCR, Rule 20(2)). Any reasonable expenses directly related to the proceedings may be claimed. This includes filing fees, costs for document reproduction, and other costs incidental to the trial process.
A list of expenses should be brought to trial and can include expenses incurred due to the lateness, unpreparedness, or general misconduct of a party (Rule 20(6)) as long as the party claiming the expenses has actually spent that amount of money (Weeks v Ford Credit Canada Ltd,  BCJ No 1737).
Wages lost for attending court cannot generally be recovered (McIntosh v De Cotiis Properties Ltd, 2002 BCPC 57 (CanLII)). Where a claim before the small claims court has been withdrawn and there are no appropriate grounds to recall it, neither costs nor penalties can be assessed (SCR, Rule 8; and Northwest Waste Systems v Szeto, 2003 BCPC 431 (CanLII)).
In circumstances where the successful party has acted unfairly, withheld information, misled the court, or wasted the court’s time, the successful party may have to pay the unsuccessful party’s costs (Tilbert v Jack,  BCJ No 938).
NOTE: A lawyer’s fees cannot generally be claimed as expenses (Small Claims Act, s 19(4); and Weeks v Ford Credit Canada Ltd.,  BCJ No 1737). The only exception is where the contract between the parties requires the reimbursement of legal costs however this only applies to legal fees that are not related to the claim (Wetterstrom et al. v Craig Management Enterprises Ltd., 2009 BCPC 165 (CanLII)).
B. Frivolous Claims
A judge has the discretion to order a penalty of up to 10 percent of the amount claimed or the value of the counterclaim if the party proceeded through trial with no reasonable basis for success (SCR, Rule 20(5)).
C. Failure to Settle
If there has been a formal offer to settle under Rule 10.1 that was not accepted, a penalty, in addition to any other expenses or penalties – up to 20 percent of the amount of the offer to settle – may be imposed if the offer was the same or better than the result at trial.
The CRT has the power and discretion under the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act and Rules to allow fees and dispute-related expenses, so long as they are reasonable. If a dispute is not resolved by agreement and a tribunal member makes a final decision, the tribunal member will usually order the unsuccessful party to pay the successful party’s tribunal fees and reasonable dispute-related expenses (CRT Rules (effective May 1, 2021), Rule 9.5(1)). In addition, one party may have to pay the other party tribunal fees, expenses relating to witnesses and summonses, and other reasonable costs paid by the other party (Rule 9.5(2)). It is rare that the CRT would order a party to pay the opposing party’s legal fees to make these fee determinations, the CRT will consider a variety of factors including the complexity of the dispute, the degree of involvement by the representative, and whether a party or representative’s conduct has caused unnecessary delay or expense (Rule 9.5(3)).
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