Your Personal Injury Lawyers
Call 1-888-404-5167
Preszler Injury Lawyers

How do Costs Work in a Personal Injury Lawsuit Involving Multiple Defendants?

Like most Canadian provinces, Ontario follows a “loser-pays” rule in civil litigation. This means that as a general rule, the prevailing party in a lawsuit can seek reimbursement of a portion of the costs associated with the litigation from the losing party. Ultimately, if the parties fail to agree on costs, a judge makes the final determination.

But what happens in cases in which a single plaintiff sues multiple defendants, and only some of the defendants are found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries?

For example, say you are injured in a three-car accident. You sue two drivers for damages, but the jury decides only one of them was responsible. Can the innocent driver seek costs against you?

The short answer is “yes.” But you can also ask the court for what is known as a Sanderson or Bullock order. The basic idea behind these orders is that the losing defendant pays some or all of the winning defendant’s costs.

The reason for two different types of orders is somewhat technical: a Sanderson order directs the unsuccessful defendant to pay the successful defendant directly, while a Bullock order reimburses the plaintiff for paying the successful defendant’s costs.

Bukshtynov v. McMaster University

A judge is not required to issue a Sanderson or Bullock order. Depending on the nature of the case, and the plaintiff’s conduct during the litigation, the judge may determine it is appropriate to hold the plaintiff solely responsible for the successful defendant’s costs.

For example, an Ontario Superior Court justice recently denied a Sanderson order requested by the plaintiffs in a personal injury case arising from an unusual pedestrian accident.

The lead plaintiff was a doctoral student at McMaster University. One morning in December 2011, the plaintiff was running on the university’s indoor track. Other people were also using the track, including several track club runners. One of the runners, who was “proceeding at a high rate of speed” according to court records, collided with the plaintiff.

The accident resulted in a serious shoulder injury for the plaintiff, which required surgery. Even with treatment, however, the plaintiff suffers from ongoing pain in his shoulder and a “reduced range of motion.”

He subsequently sued a number of parties for damages, including McMaster University, the track club runner, the track club itself, and the track club’s coach. The plaintiff’s spouse and minor daughter also claimed damages under the Ontario Family Law Act.

The parties attempted to settle before trial. The plaintiffs asked for approximately $1.2 million in damages plus costs. The defendants collectively offered a significantly lower amount, about $180,000. The plaintiffs decided to take their chances at trial.

After a 13-day trial, the jury determined as follows:

  • The running club and its coach were 60% liable for the accident;
  • The plaintiff was 40% “contributorily negligent” for the accident; and
  • The university and the runner were not liable at all.

The jury further awarded just under $102,000 in damages, which was less than the defence offered in settlement talks.

The successful defendants–the university and the runner–were entitled to recover costs. The plaintiff asked the judge for a Sanderson order directing the running club and the coach to pay the costs. The judge said that was “not fair and reasonable” and denied the plaintiff’s request.

The judge cited a number of factors supporting his decision:

  • The defendants never tried to blame one another for the plaintiff’s accident; rather, they presented a “unified” front.
  • The unsuccessful defendants did nothing that “caused the successful defendant to be added as a party.”
  • These were not separate causes of action. Indeed, the “two actions were intertwined,” as the plaintiff alleged the negligence of all of the parties contributed to a single event, i.e. his accident.
  • The plaintiff has the ability to pay the successful defendant’s costs.

This last point raised another issue. Many personal injury plaintiffs choose to purchase after-the-event (ATE) insurance to guarantee costs in the event of a loss. In fact, when the university brought a pre-trial motion for security of costs–due to the fact the plaintiff was living in the United States by then–the plaintiff agreed to purchase ATE insurance.

He apparently failed to pay the premium, however, which led the judge to issue a separate order directing the plaintiff to pay approximately $86,000 to the court directly as security.

Having denied the request for the Sanderson order, the judge proceeded to determine costs. With respect to the runner, the judge directed the plaintiff to pay $69,156 in costs. The university received an additional $95,000 in costs. This will be offset by the $86,000 previously paid to the court as security. Separately, the unsuccessful defendants must pay the plaintiff $43,000 in costs.

Get Honest, Accurate Legal Advice from an Ontario Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

The judge did not go easy on the plaintiff when it came to costs. In part, this was because the judge said the plaintiff was “stubborn” in his refusal to settle and his insistence on going to trial, which resulted in a “Pyrrhic victory” before the jury.

The judge was further displeased by the plaintiff’s “bizarre and nonsensical” decision not to pay for ATE insurance. As the court noted, for a single $1,500 premium the plaintiff “would have had some piece of mind” and avoided paying more than $80,000 of his own money as security.

If you were involved in an accident and require legal assistance, schedule a free initial consultation with Preszler Injury Lawyers by calling 1-800-JUSTICE.

related videos


Can I File An Injury Claim Without Insurance?

Communicating With Injury Clients

Does Insurance Really Watch People After They File Injury Claims?

How Our Lawyers Can Help With Your Injury Claim

How to File a Sports Injury Claim

Importance of Experience When Choosing An Injury Lawyer

Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal Injury Settlement Restrictions

Potential Impact of Social Media on a Personal Injury Claim

Pre-Existing Injuries and Their Impact on An Injury Settlement

Protecting Yourself From a Swimming Pool Accident

Safety Tips For Sending Your Child to Summer Camp

Seeking Help For Your Personal Injury

Steps to Take to Help My Injury Case

The Role of a Doctor in An Injury Claim

What is a Tort Claim?

What makes Preszler Law different?

What To Look For When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Your Legal Rights During a Personal Injury Claim
Call us now at

151 Eglinton Ave W,
Toronto, ON
M4R 1A6
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
4145 N Service Rd
Burlington, ON
L7L 4X6
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
2 County Ct Blvd #400,
Brampton, ON
L6W 3W8
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
105 Consumers Drive
Whitby, ON
L1N 1C4
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
92 Caplan Ave #121,
Barrie, ON
L4N 0Z7
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
380 Wellington St Tower B, 6th Floor,
London, ON
N6A 5B5
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
2233 Argentia Rd Suite 302,
East Tower Mississauga, ON
L5N 6A6
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
1 Hunter St E,
Hamilton, ON
L8N 3W1
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
459 George St N,
Peterborough, ON
K9H 3R9
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
22 Frederick Street,
Suite 700
Kitchener, ON N2H 6M6
Fax: 1-855-364-7027
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
116 Lisgar Street, Suite 300
Ottawa ON
K2P 0C2
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
10 Milner Business Ct #300,
Scarborough, ON
M1B 3C6
Toll Free: 1-888-608-2111
*consultation offices

DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the header image and other images throughout this website may include both lawyer and non-lawyer/paralegal employees of Preszler Injury Lawyers and DPJP Professional Corporation and unrelated third parties. Our spokesperson John Fraser, or any other non-lawyer/paralegals in our marketing is not to be construed in any way as misleading to the public. Our marketing efforts are not intended to suggest qualitative superiority to other lawyers, paralegals or law firms in any way. Any questions regarding the usage of non-lawyers in our legal marketing or otherwise can be directed to our management team. Please also note that past results are not indicative of future results and that each case is unique and that case results listed on site are from experiences across Canada and are not specific to any province. Please be advised that some of the content on this website may be out of date. None of the content is intended to act as legal advice as each situation is independent and unique and requires individual legal advice from a licensed lawyer or paralegal. For legal advice on your individual situation – we can provide legal guidance after you have contacted our firm and we have established a lawyer-client relationship contractually. Maximum contingency fee charged is 33%. Finally, our usage of awards and logos for awards does not suggest qualitative superiority to other lawyers, paralegals or law firms. All awards received from third party organizations have been done so through their own reasonable evaluative process and do not include any payment for these awards except for the use of the award logos for our marketing assets. We are also proud to service additional provinces like Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.