Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lump Sum Costs Awarded

Packers Plus Energy Services Inc v Essential Energy Services Ltd 2020 FC 68 O’Reilly J

In this costs decisions following from Packers Plus 2017 FC 1111 aff’d 2019 FCA 96, holding Packers’s 072 patent to be invalid and not infringed, O’Reilly J awarded the prevailing defendants lump sum costs of 40% of their taxable costs, plus disbursements (with some minor adjustments). O’Reilly J’s reasons for awarding a lump sum rather than following the Tariff were brief: “I also do not agree with Packers that costs should be assessed according to the Tariff. A lump sum is more appropriate given the complex nature of this case.” This seems to reflect a general sense that the Tariff scale is outdated and no longer adequate. A collective costs award calculated under the Tariff, even at the upper end of Column IV, would have resulted in an amount of about $375,000, when actual costs were apparently closer to $10,000,000.*

Another point is that there were multiple defendants, and Packers argued that there should only be one set of costs as the defendants’ interests were aligned and they could all have been represented by the same counsel. O’Reilly J rejected this submission, noting that

It was Packers’ choice to pursue each of the defendants separately. It could have limited its costs exposure by proceeding only against the first defendant, Essential Energy Services Ltd, and pursuing the other defendants later if successful. Its approach complicated the proceedings and increased the costs incurred.

He also noted that the defendants, as competitors, were entitled to be represented separately, and that “defendants’ counsel made considerable efforts to divide their labours and reduce duplication throughout the trial.” Accordingly he held the defendants were entitled to individual costs.

*The amount of the defendants’ actual fees is not stated in the decision, but Packers proposed an alternative lump sum amount of $1,003,000 and O’Reilly J remarked that this approach “would effect an arbitrary discount of the defendants’ fees and yield a reimbursement of only 10% of the defendants’ taxable costs.”

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