Nov 22, 2017

Recent Judicial Treatment (Ontario) of Legal Research

Toth v. City of Niagara Falls, 2017 ONSC 5670 (CanLII)

Originally written for the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries’ VALL Review- Fall 2017 Issue. http://www.vall.vancouver.bc.ca/

The underlying personal injury action in Toth v. City of Niagara Falls, 2017 ONSC 5670 concerns a plaintiff who allegedly fell due to an uneven sidewalk, and sustained injuries as a result. The defendant municipality agreed to pay the plaintiff $450,000, plus costs, to satisfy the claim.

In this costs decision, Whitten J. looked to the specifics of the plaintiff’s Bill of Costs. The plaintiff claimed for a total of fees of $335,807.75, plus a $40,000 counsel fee, plus disbursements. The defendant contested this large amount.

With regard to legal research, “51.5 hours are claimed for legal research without any specification” (para 77). The Court commented that: “Services such as Goldsmiths and readily available case law, can quickly establish a broad range for general damages. There is also multiple readily available case law with respect to actions against municipalities, and their duty with respect to sidewalk repairs. This court actually referred counsel to previous decisions of this jurist in this regard. Why cases tried by the defence counsel would be relevant to legal issues involved is questionable, any more so than “all the cases within the City of Hamilton”” (para 77).

Upon a review of the entire fees and disbursements claimed by the plaintiff, the Court concluded that $80,000 plus GST for legal fees and $92,289.43 for disbursements, was appropriate.

The take-away regarding legal research costs is to ensure that the costs are proportional to the complexity of the case, and that the scope of the research remains focused on the central issue(s).