March 28th, 2013
When you can’t agree with ICBC as to the value of your claim they sometimes provide a “Claim Payment Proposal” which, unlike a conventional settlement, does not resolve a claim but leaves the door open to litigation. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, considering the effect of such a proposal on a limitation period.
In this week’s case (Coombs v. LeBlond Estate) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision. The Plaintiff and ICBC could not agree on the value of the claim and ICBC provided a Claim Payment Proposal. The Plaintiff eventually sued for damages but did so after the expiry of his limitation period. ICBC applied to dismiss the lawsuit on this basis. The Plaintiff argued that the Claim Payment Proposal, despite being marked ‘without prejudice‘ was an admissible confirmation of the cause of action extending the limitation period. Mr. Justice Betton agreed and dismissed ICBC’s application. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
 The act of marking a document with the clause “without prejudice” alone is insufficient to determine whether a document is privileged. Rather, the two conditions stated in Belanger must be present for a “without prejudice” letter to be privileged. There must be:
(a) a dispute or negotiation between two or more parties, and;
(b) terms of settlement offered.
 There is no issue with condition (a) in the present case. The privilege issue turns on whether terms of settlement were offered by ICBC in their letter.
 In my view, neither the letter of December 8, 2008 nor the attached claim payment proposal contain such terms. The defendants stress that there are terms attached, but they are not, in my view, terms of settlement.
 In Rogic the first letter attaching the full and final release clearly communicated that the terms of settlement would be payment of $5,000 in exchange for a full and final release. If that release was signed, the action was concluded; accordingly, the letter was not admissible.
 The second letter, as was noted in paragraph 32, did not contain any such terms and was admissible; however, it did not constitute a confirmation of a cause of action.
 The defendants also cite Strassegger v. Harrison Hot Springs Resort Hotel Ltd.,  B.C.J. No. 1878 (S.C.) in support of their position. I find this case is not helpful to the defendants’ cause. Strasseggerwas decided on the ground that the correspondence could not be relied upon as confirmation of the action, not whether the document was privileged: see paragraph 11.
 Here the effect of the letter, the cheque, and the claim payment proposal is to confirm the cause of action. It also informs the plaintiff as to ICBC’s view that the money represents a reasonable offer of settlement. It does not, however, impose any terms for the settlement of the action. It provides only that there be an acknowledgement of the receipt of the monies and that they would be deducted from any future recovery.
 In my view, even if the plaintiff had executed the claim payment proposal, the terms contained in it are not the sort of terms contemplated by the Court of Appeal in Belanger or this court in Rogic as being terms of settlement of the dispute or negotiation.
 Accordingly, the application of the defendants is dismissed.