You know the Court is unhappy when…

“Mrs. Dickie is awarded her costs before this Court on a solicitor and client basis and in the Court of Appeal on a substantial indemnity basis.”

In any civil action, if you lose there’s always the risk that you’ll end up paying the other side’s costs–sort of. Usually costs are awarded on a party-and-party basis, which means the losing side ends up paying about half the winning side’s costs (there’s a complicated system that I don’t pretend to know let alone understand). However, if the court is unhappy with the conduct of the losing side, it may award costs on a solicitor-and-client or substantial indemnity basis (winning side gets most/all of its costs). Today the SCC released a very short judgment overturning an Ontario Court of Appeal judgment that had held (2-1) that contempt of court proceedings could not be used to enforce certain kinds of Family Law support orders. The Court was obviously unhappy with the idea of a delinquent ex-spouse asking a court to help him avoid his obligations. So they not only reversed the OCA majority and upheld the dissent, but they also slammed the guy with the substantial indemnity costs order.

Judgment here. You’ll notice that the Court agreed with the dissent that the Court could have decided not to hear the delinquent guy’s appeal in the first place, since he was in continuing disobedience of court orders.

(As an aside, costs orders don’t necessarily have to be against the losing side. It doesn’t happen very often, but you can actually win but have costs awarded against you. The kind of case where you read: “the plaintiff is awarded damages of $1; the defendant will have his costs.”)

Edit: “Substantial indemnity” is the new terminology for “solicitor and client” in Ontario. An earlier version of this post reflected confusion on this issue.