New Decision on Recovery of Costs for Computerized Research

Since these cases are so spasmodic, I thought Slaw folk might want to tuck away an endorsement on an Ontario costs review, in a case called Nelligan v. Fontaine

Computerized research charges were challenged.

The judge said:

[4] The clients object to a disbursement of $359.56 for computer research. The disbursements of $531.36 are modest, and while there is an absence of evidence of the subject of the computer research, I will allow $200.00 as a reasonable amount for computer research as a substantial amount of case law was presented.

This is some advance on Bemar Construction (Ontario) Inc. v. Toronto Transit Commission (1996) 14 O.T.C. 217

where the court said:

(2) The items for “Research – Quick Law” and for the Waterloo Law Association are in the nature of capital expenditures (reproduction of reported decisions) and may not be claimed as a disbursement.

This seems out of line with most recent Ontario costs decisions: Denzler v. Aull (2004) 29 C.P.C. (3d) 99, 19 O.R. (3d) 507.
Justice Dennis Lane appears closer to the mark in Zari K. Banihashem-Bakhtiari, et al. v. Axes Investments Inc., The City of Toronto, et al. (2003), 66 O.R. (3d) 284, when he wrote:

The defendants objected to several categories as falling outside the tariff. These included faxes, long distance, couriers and legal research (i.e Quicklaw etc.). These omissions merely illustrate the degree to which the tariff of disbursements has lost touch with modern legal practice. All of these items are everyday costs in running any litigation and are case-specific, rather than mere overhead, as for example, the cost of local telephone service is. If they are not included expressly, they are certainly disbursements “reasonably necessary for the conduct of the proceeding” within Tariff item 35, and I so order.

There seem to be problems where the law firm is on a flat subscription for the service as shown in Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company and Another v. Geto Investments Limited and Others (2002), 17 C.P.C. (5th) 334:

Mr. Roberts objects to a charge of $435.10 for QuickLaw research which he asserts WeirFoulds would not have paid because they are on a flat fee arrangement with QuickLaw. That would appear to be a fair objection. In any event, the amount sought for QuickLaw research is inordinately high for a matter that ought not to have required much research.

Expect to have amounts discounted for research down avenues not pursued: see 3664902 Canada Inc. and 174616 Canada Inc., v. Hudson’s Bay Company c.o.b. as “The Bay Department Stores”, (2002), 22 C.P.C. (5th) 102


  1. Thanks for raising this issue again, Simon. We often look at it but Alberta courts are generally not prepared to allow costs for online research disbursements. The point made by the court in Geto is validly made, where many of these databases, QL included, are provided to firms on a flat fee arrangement. The second point about the amount being “inordinately high” makes me wonder, though. I expect many judges are unfamiliar with how much online research “costs” as they have the service provided for free I believe.