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Friday, January 31, 2014

Sask Court of Appeal orders solicitor-client costs for landowner wrongfully expropriated

The appellant succeeded in obtaining an order in the Court of Queen’s Bench quashing a municipal bylaw expropriating a portion of his farm land. In consequence, he asked the Chambers judge to order the municipality to pay him the costs he had incurred in having the bylaw set aside. His solicitor-client costs, he said, amounted to $64,498.92. The Chambers judge declined to award him costs on a solicitor-client basis and instead, awarded him the fixed sum of $3,000 payable by the municipality. He then brought an appeal to the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan courts had already confirmed that it is within the discretion of the Chambers judge to award solicitor-client costs in the context of expropriation and related matters.  The Court of Appeal in this decision noted that, while there was no authority for the proposition that solicitor-client costs must be awarded in expropriation cases, "there is, however, a substantial body of literature suggesting, as a matter of fairness, that persons whose private land has been taken from them by means not of agreement but of compulsory expropriation should generally be able to recover their reasonable legal and other costs, responsibly incurred, in responding to the expropriation."

The Court of Appeal remitted the matter back to the Chambers judge to assess the landowner's reasonable solicitor-client costs, concluding: "The appellant’s land was taken from him through no fault on his part pursuant to a process in which he had no input. As it turns out, the land was unlawfully expropriated, yet the appellant had to go to court at his expense to establish the wrongdoing and recover his land. As in Sask Water, equity cries out that the appellant should get some relief."

Read the decision at: Goodtrack v The Rural Municipality of Waverley No 44.