Legal costs: The Superior Court confirms which procedural rules apply
As we are now all aware, under the New Code of Civil Procedure, chapter C-25.01 (“N.C.C.P.”), which entered into force on January 1, 2016, the Tariff of judicial fees of advocates (the “Tariff”) has been rescinded (article 832 N.C.C.P.), the distinction between “honoraires judiciaires” and “honoraires extrajudiciaires” has been eliminated and article 339 N.C.C.P. now provides an exhaustive list of all legal costs that can be claimed by a successful party to an action.
Going forward, according to article 339 N.C.C.P., the only legal costs that can be claimed include:
- court costs and fees, including disbursements incurred for the physical preparation of appeal briefs and memorandums;
- professional fees and expenses for the service or notification of pleadings and documents;
witness indemnities and allowances;
- interpreter fees;
- fees for registration in the land register or the register of personal and movable real rights;
- costs related to taking and transcribing testimony filed in the court record, “if that was necessary”; and
expert fees “related to the drafting of a report and, if applicable, preparing testimony, and remuneration for the time spent testifying and, to the extent useful, attending the trial”.
In the months leading up to January 1, 2016, many were concerned about the transition and how their costs awards would be treated going forward. This was especially true regarding all first instance judgments rendered before 2016 that were currently under appeal with large costs awards stemming from the application of the additional fee of 1% under s. 42 of the Tariff.
On January 12, 2016, in the decision of AlSammour c. Jmour, 2016 QCCS 46, the Honourable Serge Gaudet J.C.S. provided confirmation as to which set of rules apply to costs awards. Broadly, the case involved an action for unpaid wages and damages as well as an action for repayment of a loan following a breakdown in the relationship between the parties in connection with the failure of their café business. By way of a footnote at the end of the judgment, Justice Gaudet outlined the following comments with respect to legal costs awards in the context of this procedural transition:
Le Nouveau code de procédure civile étant d’application immédiate (sauf exceptions ici inapplicables), même si le procès a eu lieu et l’affaire a été prise en délibéré avant le 1er janvier 2016, le Tribunal ne peut plus accorder les dépens de l’ancien article 477 C.p.c, et doit plutôt accorder, s’il y a lieu, les frais de justice selon l’article 339 du Nouveau code de procédure civile. En effet, les dépens ou les frais de justice ne se gagnent pas au fur et à mesure que l’instance se déroule, mais plutôt par le jugement qui les accorde (cf. à cet égard le texte des articles 481 de l’ancien Code de procédure civile et 343 du Nouveau code de procédure civile). C’est donc le droit en vigueur au jour du jugement qui détermine le droit applicable en cette matière (cf. P. Roubier, Le droit transitoire, 2e édition, Dalloz, 1993, p. 563 : « La loi qui règle les formes et les effets du jugement est la loi du jour du jugement… »).
As such, it is clear (for now) that it is the procedural rules in force at the time of the judgment awarding the legal costs that govern.