Four Paragraph Decision from the BC Supreme Court Provides Much Needed Clarification on Default Judgment Rules

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W. Eric Pedersen

The BC Supreme Court published a four-paragraph decision today that should be of some interest to the litigation bar in BC, particularly those whose practice includes creditors remedies.

Rule 3-8(2) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules allows a party to take default judgment against a party who has failed to respond to a claim by making a filing with the court registry if the claim is in a specified and ascertainable amount.   This means that if the Notice of Civil Claim specified the damages as a dollar figure, the Plaintiff can take judgment quickly and inexpensively, with no court appearances needed.  Where the damages are not specified as a dollar figure, the Plaintiff is required to make an application before a judge to assess the damages.

The court registry has in the past rejected applications for default judgment where there is a specified sum plead in the Notice of Claim, and where there are also alternative claims for general damages.  This would force the plaintiff to bring the claim to a judge for damages to be assessed.  This is a costly and inconvenient process, particularly if the Plaintiff is concerned about a dry judgment, or has limited resources to pursue collection.  Today’s decision seems to indicate that filings for default judgment will now be accepted and entered despite alternative pleadings being made.  This gives lawyers greater flexibility in drafting their claims, as they will not have to consider excluding general damages claims if the case may possibily proceed to default.

The court’s decision in Trustees of the Interior Lumbermen’s Pension Plan v. Moore, 2016 BCSC 89 is printed below:

[1]             THE COURTI am prepared to grant the order. 

[2]             I do so on the basis — and you may wish this to be transcribed, because it may be something that is of use to the profession generally — but in my view, Rule 3-8(3) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 makes it clear that a party may obtain default judgment on a claim for money that is in a specific ascertainable amount. 

[3]             There is nothing in the Rules that precludes a party from doing so where the claim happens to be coupled with a claim in the alternative.

[4]             I am allowing the appeal and you may take the order.