Cami Automotive, Inc v. Westwood Shipping Lines Inc

In Admiralty Practice, Costs and Security for Costs on (Updated )

This was a case involving a claim against a rail carrier and vessel for damage to cargo. The plaintiff recovered only the limitation amount of $50,000. The vessel and rail carrier each claimed entitlement to double costs on the basis that the rail carrier had paid the plaintiff Cdn$50,000 and the vessel had made an offer to settle in the amount of Cdn$50,001. The Trial Judge held that the payment by the rail carrier was not a clear and unequivocal offer within the meaning the rules and that the rail carrier was not entitled to double costs. With respect to the vessel, the Trial Judge held that as there was not yet a final judgment, there was no basis for application of the rules relating to double costs. Moreover, the Trial Judge questioned whether the offer made by the vessel would be as favourable as the minimum amount of the eventual judgment (this was presumably because the Cdn$ was worth less than the US$ at the time). In result, the defendants were awarded only normal costs. Two interesting points were considered during the course of the reasons on costs. First, the Trial Judge considered whether the salvage obtained from the sale of the damaged cargo should be deducted from the limitation amount and held it was not appropriate to do so. Second, it was urged on the Trial Judge that the plaintiff’s total claim was limited to US$50,000 rather than US$50,000 for each defendant. The Trial Judge declined to address this issue which was first raised at the hearing on costs.