October 17, 2013
Following a two-day wrongful dismissal trial in Superior Court, an employee was awarded reasonable notice damages in the amount of three-months’ salary which worked out to approximately $15,000. The Plaintiff employee then sought a further award for costs while the Defendant employer sought an award of costs of its own having regard to the fact that the total amount of recovery was below the amount that would be recoverable in Small Claims Court.
Notwithstanding the Plaintiff’s modest success at trial, the judge concluded that the Plaintiff was not entitled to any costs because his claim consisted of vague allegations of conspiracy and inducement that lacked any factual or legal basis. The judge went on to conclude that the case was a “simple wrongful dismissal action that could and should have been brought in small claims” but, instead, had been framed by the Plaintiff and pursued by his counsel in such a way so as to expand the issues and drive up the costs unnecessarily. For this reason, the judge dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim for costs and proceeded to award the Defendant employer costs in the amount of $11,571.20.
This decision is a sobering reminder that “shooting for the moon” when pursuing a wrongful dismissal claim and “playing hard-ball” at trial is counter-productive and may very well entitle an employer to a significant cost award notwithstanding a finding that it has engaged in a wrongful termination.