Ontario court awards costs of $36,665 to plaintiff in wrongful dismissal case after parties couldn’t agree on consolidation

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The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has issued a ruling on costs in a wrongful dismissal case involving plaintiff (LH) and defendants Northern Trust and DS.

The court awarded costs to LH on a partial indemnity basis amounting to $36,665.22.

LH initially filed a wrongful dismissal action against Northern Trust on Sept. 3, 2019. Subsequently, on June 20, 2022, she commenced a tort action against both Northern Trust and DS. Both actions were described as having the “same factual footprint.”

In April of 2023, the defendants filed a motion to either strike, stay, or dismiss the tort action. The motion was made on the basis that another action was already pending in Ontario and that the tort claim was an abuse of the legal process. However, on Aug. 4, 2023, the court dismissed the defendants’ motion. The judge found no reason to dismiss or stay any of the causes of action, stating that there was no abuse of process.

Moreover, the court ordered the consolidation of LH’s 2019 wrongful dismissal action and her 2022 tort action, stating that this would “avoid a multiplicity of proceedings and to regularize the improperly pleaded Statements of Claim.” The move was supported by LH and aimed at streamlining the litigation process.

As for the costs, LH had requested costs on a substantial indemnity scale of $54,997.83 or, alternatively, on a partial indemnity scale of $36,665.22. The defendants, on the other hand, sought costs of $39,549.21 on a partial indemnity scale or proposed that no costs be awarded at all.

The court rejected the defendants’ request, stating, “There was no divided success. The Defendants completely lost the motion and terms were imposed that benefited both parties; that is not a divided success.”

The judge further noted that the litigation team for LH consisted of one senior lawyer, one mid-level lawyer, and one summer student, and that the bulk of the work had been performed by the summer student and mid-level lawyer. The rates charged were found to be “below the standard rates for Toronto and are reasonable.”

The court concluded that LH’s costs were “reasonable and justified,” and thus awarded her $36,665.22, all-inclusive. The court clarified that this was not a punitive costs award and stated, “It is unfortunate that the parties could not agree about consolidation, but the Defendants had grounds to bring their motion; however, they lost, and they should be responsible for costs on a partial indemnity basis fixed at $36,665.22, all-inclusive.”

For more information, see Howlett v. Northern Trust Company, 2023 ONSC 5331 (CanLII)