British Columbia’s newly enacted Limitation Act will come into force on June 1, 2013. While the delay is designed to allow the legal community and other stakeholders time to familiarize themselves with the new legislation, there are a number of transition rules and some new “discovery” rules employers will want to take note of now.
The Limitation Act sets out the time limit claimants have to start a civil proceeding in court. While some statutes have their own limitation periods, the Limitation Act sets the default time limit where a statute is otherwise silent or the claim is not based on statute. A court proceeding commenced outside a limitation period is typically dismissed on the basis that it is “statute-barred.”
Subject to exceptions, there are essentially two limitation periods under the new Limitation Act: (1) the “basic” limitation period applicable to most civil claims, such as wrongful dismissal, which is 2 years after the day on which the claim is discovered; and (2) the “ultimate” limitation period applicable to most claims that may not be immediately discovered, such as negligence in engineering a new bridge. The ultimate limitation period is 15 years after the day on which the act or omission on which the claim is based took place. The corresponding limitations under the current legislation range from 2 – 10 years for the basic limitation period to 30 years for the ultimate limitation period.
The 2-year basic limitation period does not apply to claims by governments. The Act extends that time period to 6 years.
Subject to certain exceptions, the Act contains transition rules which provide that claims discovered after May 31, 2013 are subject to the limitation periods under the new Limitation Act, while claims discovered prior to June 1, 2013 are subject to the current legislation. As a result, employers and other interested parties should carefully document specifics around claims discovered between now and next June in order to preserve any advantages afforded by the transition rules.