How have special costs been awarded in civil actions where the purpose of the civil action was to silence public opposition?

British Columbia, Canada


The following excerpt is from Scory v. Krannitz, 2011 BCSC 1344 (CanLII):

Fraser v. Saanich is an example of a lawsuit where special costs were awarded to the defendants because the purpose of the civil action was to stop public opposition to the plaintiff’s rezoning application. Singh J. concluded that the plaintiff’s action was devoid of merit and disclosed no cause of action. The claim essentially characterized lawful public involvement in government decision-making as unlawful. The statement of claim also made bare assertions of misconduct without any facts to support these allegations. The impact of the lawsuit was to silence public opposition to the plaintiff’s application. In awarding special costs, Singh J. says at para. 52: What the plaintiffs expect to receive they should clearly also expect to deliver. I find, therefore, finally, that this action not only contains an unreasonable claim, is meritless and devoid of any factual foundation, but also has been used as an attempt to stifle the democratic activities of the defendants, the neighbourhood residents. I find the plaintiff’s conduct reprehensible and deserving of censure by an award of special costs.

The circumstances of the case at hand are very similar to the facts in Fraser v. Saanich. The claimant sued the respondents for wildly inflated damages that had no basis in fact and alleged serious acts of misconduct which reflected poorly on their character and reputation in the community. None of these serious allegations were supported by evidence. The allegations were merely bare assertions of misconduct. The lawsuit was filed coincident with the respondents’ public criticism of the claimant’s landfill proposal to the Township of Langley and essentially characterized this lawful public participation in government decision-making as unlawful. Moreover, as in the case of Fraser v. Saanich, the respondents advised the claimant early on in the proceedings that they would be seeking an order for special costs due to the frivolous nature of the lawsuit. Offers to settle were also served early on in the proceedings.

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