July 31st, 2012
One of the exceptions to the strict application of limitation periods relates to adding parties to existing litigation. In these circumstances an expired limitation period is not, in and of itself, a barrier to add a party to a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court. This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In this week’s case (Haworth v. Haworth) the Plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband in 2007. The vehicle lost control in icy conditions. She sued him for damages. In the course of the lawsuit ICBC plead the “inevitable accident” defence and eventually added the appropriate road maintenance company as a Third Party. The Plaintiff then sought to add this party as a Defendant. The Road Maintenance company objected arguing, among other matters, that the limitation period to sue them has expired. Master Keighley found this unpersuasive and granted the Plaintiff’s application. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
 There is, as previously confirmed, a presumption of prejudice if a proposed defendant will be deprived of a limitation defence by his addition as a party. Also, as previously indicated, the relevant period during which prejudice is to be assessed is that which follows the expiration, in this case, of the three year period following the date upon which the cause of action arose. The plaintiff will certainly suffer prejudice if her application is dismissed. She will lose a possible claim against a party or parties with potential liability. This issue, Wilson J. indicates in Walsh v. Blair, Vancouver Registry, Action No. M015646, BCSC, said as follows:
 There is prejudice to the plaintiff in that if the application is not allowed, she will lose a right to claim against a party with potential liability. As noted in Takenaka v. Stanley (2000), 91 B.C.L.R. (3d) 179 (S.C. Master), that will usually outweigh the loss of a potential limitation defence to a potential defendant. Generally, the courts are reluctant to deprive a plaintiff of his or her day in court, so that the trend in the cases appears to be that it will take more than theoretical prejudice to outweigh the loss of that potential claim.
 The plaintiff’s potential peril becomes more significant when one considers that, should the application be dismissed, and should the present defendant succeed on the issue of unavoidable accident, she will be left without remedy although blameless with respect to the circumstances of the accident.
 Neither Her Majesty the Queen or Argo Thompson allege, as is often the case in such applications, that they have been prejudiced by an inability to investigate the claims against them. HMTQ has, of course, been aware of the potential claim since May 12, 2011 when the application to add the Third Parties was brought. There was no evidence of any investigation conducted by HMTQ after that date to the present. While it seems likely the government representatives would have discussed the potential claim with representatives of Argo Thompson at an early date, there is no evidence of that and I can make no such assumption. With respect to itsinvestigation, Argo Thompson says as follows (and this appears in Affidavit No. 2 of Yvonne Van Vliet, a paralegal in the employ of Argo Thompson’s counsel):
14. Attached as Exhibit “J” to this affidavit is a true copy of the timecard signed by plough operator Chris Jones on November 12, 2007. Mr. Jones’ timecard indicates that he commenced his shift at 5:00 p.m., on November 12, 2007 and worked until 4:25 a.m., on November 13, 2007. On his timecard he recorded applying 41 cubic meters of winter abrasive (activity 310B) to the Coquihalla Highway during his shift.
15. On May 22, 2012 I was informed by Tom Bone, General Manager for Argo, during a teleconference, that Chris Jones has not been employed with Argo since 2008, nor has Argo been in contact with him since 2008. Furthermore, Mr. Bone informed me that Argo is not aware of Chris Jones’ current address or contact information.
 There is no indication that Mr. Jones cannot be found, what reasonable steps have been taken to locate him, or even whether his evidence, beyond that contained in the records, is required for the defence of these claims. With respect to records, there is no evidence to suggest that any are missing or have been destroyed.
 In the circumstances, I find that there is no prejudice to these proposed defendants in making the order sought, whereas the potential prejudice to the plaintiff, should she be deprived of potential claims, is overwhelming. An order will go in the terms of the application. Costs will be in the cause.