Costs Basics

Last Reviewed: March 2023 Reviewed by: JES Download

Costs Basics

Costs are usually awarded to the party who is successful at a hearing. They cover out-of-pocket expenses and provide some compensation for the time and expense of going to Court. However, they rarely cover the full actual expense of the hearing.

The rules that govern costs are set out in Rule 14-1 and Appendix B of the Supreme Court Rules. Read these carefully before preparing your documents.

Read the Rules

Rule14-1 and Appendix B Costs

What Are Costs?

“Costs” is a legal term that means an order that one party pay money to the other party to compensate for the expense and time of litigation. Generally, costs are awarded to the successful party at a trial or other hearing.

The thinking behind costs is that they:

  • Provide some compensation
  • Encourage parties to settle their disputes
  • Encourage people not to bring hopeless lawsuits

There are different kinds of “costs” awards.

  • Part and Party Costs: The most common costs. These are calculated based on the tariff set out in Appendix B of the Supreme Court Rules
  • Special Costs: Occasionally, if there has been reprehensible conduct in the course of the action, such as fraud, the court may order that “special costs” be paid to the successful party. Special costs are higher and approximate actual legal fees. You can apply for special costs even if you are not represented by a lawyer. However, there must be a very good reason for the Court to order special costs

Getting an Order for Costs

You can get an order for costs in all sorts of proceedings. You can get an order for costs if you are successful in a chamber application, a trial, or a petition.

It does not matter whether you are the plaintiff or defendant, the applicant or respondent, the petitioner or petition respondent. If you successfully make or successfully defend, a claim to the Court you may be awarded costs.

However, in order to get an award for costs, you have to ask for it. Make sure you include a request for costs in the “Relief Sought” portion of your notice of civil claim, application, petition, response to a civil claim, application response, or petition response.

Further, even if you have already made a request for costs in your pleadings or chambers application, you should also ask for costs as soon as the judge or master hears the application or the trial rules in your favor.

When Does the Court Assess Costs?

Usually all costs are assessed at the end of your case. This means that if you have success on a chambers application along the way, you will not immediately get a cheque from the other side. Rather, all costs awards are dealt with at the end.

There is one exception to this rule. If the costs award is made “forthwith” then it can be assessed, and must be paid, right away.

Costs may be assessed:

  • When the court orders costs to be assessed
  • If a settlement agreement provides for the payment of costs to be assessed
  • When a party has obtained default judgment
  • By the party whose formal offer to settle has been accepted
  • By the defendant when the plaintiff discontinues the action
  • By the plaintiff when the defendant withdraws their defence

If you obtain an order for costs after a trial, you can take out an appointment with the registrar to assess the costs as soon as the order providing for costs is entered. 

Learn More

You will also find detailed information about costs in resources that can be found in the courthouse library. These include Practice Before the Registrar published by the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC and The Conduct of Civil Litigation in British Columbia by Fraser, Horn, and Griffin.

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