ICBC Law

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Court Finds Health Care Costs Recovery Act Does Not Apply to Actions Commenced before April 1, 2009

(Please Note:  I’ve been advised by a colleague that the case discussed in this post is under appeal and I will update this post once the BCCA’s decision is released)

As readers of this blog know, on April 1, 2009 the BC Health Care Costs Recovery Act came into force which required Plaintiffs to, in certain circumstances, advance claims on behalf of the government to recover MSP health care costs in their personal injury claims.

Today Mr. Justice Sewell released two sets of judgements addressing whether the Act applies to cases filed in Court before April 1, 2009.

In today’s cases (Fong v. Deglan and Gosselin v. Shepherd) the respective Plaintiff’s were injured in non ICBC insured cases.  Their injuries occurred before April 1, 2009 and their lawsuits were also filed before this date.  Prior to the trial the Plaintiffs applied to amend their pleadings to advance the BC Governments claim under the HCCRA.

Lawyers for the Attorney General of BC intervened and argued that these amendments should be allowed.  The Defendants opposed these applications arguing that the HCCRA does not apply to lawsuits filed before April 1, 2009.  Mr. Justice Sewell agreed with the Defendants and dismissed the applications and in so doing made the following findings:

[37]        My review of the Act leads me to conclude that it is not clearly and unambiguously intended to apply to actions commenced before the Act came into force.  The presumption against retrospectivity set out in the cases referred to above together with the internal indications in the Act itself lead me to conclude that s. 2 of the Act has no application to actions commenced prior to the Act coming into force.

[38]        I therefore conclude that the amendment sought discloses no reasonable cause of action and dismiss the application for the amendment on that ground.

[39]        I would also dismiss the application to amend on the grounds that it is not just and convenient to permit such a claim to be advanced.  It is clear that Ms. Gosselin will obtain no benefit from advancing the claim and has no legal obligation to do so.  In these circumstances I consider the amendment to be useless and unfair to the defendants.

[40]        In Langret Investments S.A. v. McDonnell (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 145 (C.A.) the court held at p. 153:

• Rule 24(1) of the Rules of Court in British Columbia allows a party to amend an originating process or pleading. Amendments are allowed unless prejudice can be demonstrated by the opposite party or the amendment will be useless. The rationale for allowing amendments is to enable the real issues to be determined. The practice followed in civil matters when amendments are sought fulfils the fundamental objective of the civil rules which is to ensure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on the merits. See McLachlin and Taylor, British Columbia Practice (2nd Ed.) pp. 24-1 to 24-2-10, and the (7 decision of this Court in Chavez v. Sundance Cruises Corp. (1993), 15 C.P.C. (3d) 305, 309-10.

[41]        In my view the proposed amendments to the statement of claim are useless in that they provide no personal benefit to the plaintiff since any amount recovered by the plaintiff as a result of the amendments would be held in trust and ultimately paid to the government.

[42]        Ms. Gosselin feels that she has a moral obligation to pursue a claim to recover the health care services costs.  However I do not consider it to be appropriate for the Court to impose moral obligations on defendants.  The legislature has set out the circumstances in which the government is entitled to recover the cost of health care services.  I do not consider it to be just to the defendants to put them uniquely in the position of being exposed to a claim that others in the same situation will not be required to answer.

[43]        The application to amend is therefore dismissed.

Clarity is always welcome when a new law comes into force.  I will continue to post about further cases interpreting and shaping this legislation.  You can click here to read my archived posts discussing the HCCRA.

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