‘Reprehensible conduct’: B.C. employer awarded special costs after wrongful dismissal trial stretches to 23 days

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The Supreme Court of British Columbia has awarded special costs to an employer following a protracted wrongful dismissal battle.

Batten Industries was granted 80% of its special costs after the court evaluated the conduct of both parties during the litigation. It noted the trial was initially set to last five days, beginning on May 17, 2021. But it extended to 23 days and didn’t wrap up until Sept. 29, 2022.

“There were a number of reasons for this, not all of which can be laid at (the worker’s) feet,” the court said. “Batten chose to pursue 28 different allegations of wrongdoing, some of which had little or no evidentiary foundation.”

The court found that while the employee’s actions during the litigation were reprehensible, Batten’s approach and evidence also contributed to the trial’s prolonged duration.

Among Batten’s allegations to support special damages was a claim that the worker deleted data from a company-provided Surface Pro and failed to disclose 600 pages of documents, which significantly affected the trial’s proceedings.

“The deliberate destruction of evidence cuts to the core of the court’s ability to resolve disputes fairly,” the court said. “In my view, the deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence is reprehensible conduct which merits an award of special costs.”

It also pointed out she gave false evidence on matter “central to this action” — namely her knowledge of the fact her husband would be and was paid for a contract she induced the company to sign.

The broader context of this legal battle dates back to her termination from Batten Industries on Jan. 11, 2017. She subsequently filed a civil claim alleging wrongful dismissal, seeking damages and claiming Batten acted maliciously and unfairly towards her.

Batten countered with allegations that it had just cause for dismissal due to her misconduct, breach of trust, fiduciary duty, and breach of the duty of good faith. In response, they also filed for damages for breach of contract.

In its ruling, the court found in favor of Batten on its counterclaim, awarding the company damages totaling $16,262.78, but declined to order punitive damages against the former worker.

The worker argued that, if the court determined special costs were warranted, they should be for one-third of the proceeding. But the court settled on 80% as the appropriate quantum.

“Batten’s scattergun approach to its allegations of misconduct against (the worker) needlessly lengthened this proceeding,” it said. “An award of 80% of its special costs sufficiently rebukes (her) for the reprehensible conduct she engaged in, while recognizing that Batten contributed to the needless length of this trial.”

For more information, see Chura v Batten Industries Inc., 2023 BCSC 1708 (CanLII)