Costs are a discretionary and flexible award by the court following the conclusion of a lawsuit or a step in a lawsuit. This discretionary aspect of costs also makes it difficult for lawyers to give legal advice on potential costs consequences. The general rules are clear, but not always uniformly applied. Some of the general rules are as follows:
- The successful litigant generally will be awarded costs.
- Costs can range from full indemnity, which means your entire legal bill was reimbursed to you, to “no costs” or “each party bears their own costs”. An apparent default rule is that costs will be awarded pursuant to Schedule C of the of the Alberta Rules of Court. This table has set dollar amounts for every step in a lawsuit, which may have no relationship necessarily to the actual legal costs that you would likely have incurred. For example, if you are successful in a “morning chambers” application in the Court of Queen’s Bench, the table Schedule C costs will be $675, however, you will have probably have spent three or four times that much in legal fees. Here is a link to that table (recently increased in May 2020):
If you are awarded costs, you are eventually given a judgement, which is a document filed in your court action, which you still have to then enforce. Like any debt owing to you, if it is not willingly paid to you, you have to take steps to collect it.
If the application which resulted in the costs award is to obtain child or spousal support, the Maintenance Enforcement Program of Alberta should be able to collect those costs on your behalf at no charge to you.
Otherwise, you will need to take steps yourself, and may find this publication helpful:
An award for costs following a multi-day trial can be quite substantial if you are successful, as legal fees for lengthy trials are substantial.
For example, a five-day trial in the Court of Queens’ Bench of Alberta, and in the Provincial Family and Youth Court in recent years have resulted in a costs award of $75,000.00 and of $28,000.00 for my clients, respectively. A two-week Court of Queen’s Bench trial resulted in costs of $165,000 for my client.
Appeals may also result in an award of costs. At the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the general rule is that you do not need to ask for costs if you are successful, they will automatically be awarded to you.
Please discuss this issue more fully with myself as potential costs awards are an important matter to consider when bringing or defending an application in court.
(Information current as of June 2020)