OLSON v OLSON, 2022 ABQB 356


10.29: General rule for payment of litigation costs
10.52: Declaration of civil contempt
10.53: Punishment for civil contempt of Court

Case Summary

The Plaintiff was successful on an Application for a parenting and child support order. Leading up to the application, the Defendant had unnecessarily protracted the litigation, was the subject of several cost awards, neglected to pay a per diem fine that accrued for over four years, and was in contempt of court.

The Court awarded costs against the Defendant and considered whether to issue a warrant for his arrest.

In awarding costs, Justice Harris referenced Rule 10.29 and explained that a successful party is entitled to costs. The Court has discretion to award enhanced costs if a party engages in litigation misconduct. Enhanced costs can include an award of solicitor-client costs, but only in exceptional circumstances. Here, the Defendant’s outrageous conduct resulted in unnecessary delays and repeated court appearances, which wasted both the Court’s and the Plaintiff’s time and resources. More importantly, the Defendant attempted to “delay, deceive and defeat justice” by seeking numerous adjournments, concealing materials, and failing to produce financial disclosure. Accordingly, the Plaintiff was awarded solicitor-client costs for her application.

Rules 10.52 and 10.53 govern the contempt of parties in civil matters. Since the remedy for contempt can include imprisonment under Rules 10.53(1)(b) and (c), these provisions are penal in nature and thus subject to the Charter. As a quasi-criminal remedy, the “utmost care must be taken in all cases to ensure the contemner’s rights are observed”.

Under Rule 10.53(4), only the Justice who initially made a declaration of contempt can increase, vary, or remit the penalty or sanction. Justice Harris was not the initial judge who imposed financial penalties on the Defendant and could not vary them. Her Ladyship ordered a new contempt hearing to hear submissions as to why the Defendant should not be held in continued contempt of court and imprisoned under Rule 10.53.

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