Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Double Costs Definition:

A punitive measure against a litigant for that party’s failure, in all of the circumstances, to have accepted an offer to settle that should have been accepted.

Related Terms: Increased Costs, Costs

A statutory remedy available to successful litigants in certain situations in which the losing litigant rejected an offer to settle and the result of the litigation which could of been avoided had the offer been accepted, is a judgment in terms much like the rejected offer.

Hartshorne v Hartshorne (2011) was issued within a jurisdiction (British Columbia) which seeks to promote a considered approach to offers to settle by penalizing the rejection of an offer which ends up being in terms similar to the final judgment, by imposing double costs upon the losing party. In that case, the Court of Appeal adopted these words:

"An award of double costs is a punitive measure against a litigant for that party’s failure, in all of the circumstances, to have accepted an offer to settle that should have been accepted. Litigants are to be reminded that costs rules are in place to encourage the early settlement of disputes by rewarding the party who makes a reasonable settlement offer and penalizing the party who declines to accept such an offer....

"The purposes for which costs rules exist must be kept in mind in determining whether appellate intervention is warranted. In addition to indemnifying a successful litigant, those purposes have been described as follows by this Court: deterring frivolous actions or defences; to encourage conduct that reduces the duration and expense of litigation and to discourage conduct that has the opposite effect; encouraging litigants to settle whenever possible, thus freeing up judicial resources for other cases; and to have a winnowing function in the litigation process by requiring litigants to make a careful assessment of the strength or lack thereof of their cases at the commencement and throughout the course of the litigation, and by discouraging the continuance of doubtful cases or defences."

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