Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond has tabled new legislation which, if adopted, will simplify the time limits for filing a civil lawsuit in British Columbia. Highlights of the new legislation include a basic two-year limitation period for most claims and an ultimate limitation period of 15 years. These changes are consistent with reforms already in place in other provinces and will be welcomed by engineers, construction professionals, government bodies and others whose work routinely exposes them to longer term liability risk.
Bill 34, introduced into the legislature on April 16, 2012, repeals and replaces the existing Limitation Act. Subject to a few limited exceptions, the new legislation establishes a basic limitation period for commencing a court proceeding of two years after the day on which the claim is discovered. A claim is discovered by a person on the first day on which the person knew or reasonably ought to have known all of the following:
- that injury, loss or damage had occurred;
- that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission;
- that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is or may be made; and
- that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a court proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy the injury, loss or damage.
Similar to the current act, there are factors and special discovery rules that exempt certain claims from the basic limitation period and may extend or override the limitation period.
Bill 34 reduces the ultimate limitation period for commencing a court proceeding from the current 30 years to 15 years after the day on which the act or omission giving rise to the claim took place. The combined effect of the basic and ultimate limitation periods is that a person may not litigate a claim or seek a non-judicial remedy after the earlier of the date that is:
- 2 years after the claim is discovered; and
- 15 years after the date on which the event giving rise to the claim occurred.
Bill 34 was given Third Reading by the BC Legislature on April 26, 2012. We will send a further alert when it receives Royal Assent.