CRT – No “Placeholder” Lawsuits To Preserve Future ICBC Benefits
In British Columbia the norm has long been that a collision victim could file a lawsuit against ICBC to preserve the right to future accident related medical/rehab benefits even if no past benefits were outstanding. The reason was simple, contractually ICBC Part 7 benefits could be payable over many years. However, if enough time passed without the need to access these benefits, the limitation period could expire thus thwarting the ability to claim future benefits if needed. A simple court filing could prevent this from occurring. The BC Supreme Court was reluctant to dismiss such claims understanding their role in preserving future benefits claims.
The BC Government has now diverted many ICBC disputes away from the courts and into a provincially created body known as the Civil Resolution Tribunal. In the first CRT decision I’m aware of addressing this practice the CRT ruled that such claims will not be accepted and will be dismissed.
In the recent case (Mu v. ICBC) the Applicant filed a ‘placeholder’ lawsuit to preserve her right to seek future ICBC benefits after being involved in a collision. No past benefits were outstanding. As ICBC looked to move the dispute forward the Applicant asked the CRT to “pause” the proceeding until such time as a dispute arose to future benefits. The CRT was not prepared to do so and ruled that under the new system placeholder claims to preserve limitation rights will not be allowed. In reaching this decision CRT Vice Chair Andrea Ritchie provided the following reasons:
23.I find Ms. Mu’s argument that she is entitled to file a Dispute Notice to preserve her limitation period indefinitely for potential future accident benefit claims inconsistent with section 103 of the IVR, which was enacted April 1, 2019. Although I acknowledge Ms. Mu’s submission that this is “how it was done” in the past at the British Columbia Supreme Court, with respect, that was before the current legislation was in effect, and before the tribunal was granted exclusive jurisdiction over accident benefits, pursuant to section 133(1)(a) of the CRTA. I find the amended section 103 provides a new procedure for preserving an insured’s right to accident benefits that does not require a pro forma placeholder Dispute Notice be filed.
- 24.I note Ms. Mu also argues that she may have multiple requests for accident benefits as a result of the April 8, 2019 accident, occurring at different times. Ms. Mu says that is why one placeholder Dispute Notice is required to preserve the limitation period. Again, the limitation periods in section 103 do not prevent multiple requests for accident benefits, and Ms. Mu is entitled to file as many accident benefits claims with the tribunal as necessary, she is not limited to one. Given the section 103 procedure, I find there is no prejudice to Ms. Mu in refusing to pause the current dispute, whereas there is prejudice to ICBC as there would be an outstanding claim against it with no certainty as to its resolution.
- 25.Additionally, I find allowing a dispute to linger dormant in the tribunal’s dispute resolution process indefinitely is inconsistent with the tribunal’s mandate to provide dispute resolution services accessibly, quickly, economically, informally, and flexibly. Further, I find the accident benefits issue is plainly within the tribunal’s exclusive jurisdiction and there are no factors which would prevent the tribunal from fairly hearing the dispute, including this preliminary issue. Therefore, I find it is not in the interests of justice or fairness to pause the dispute.
- 26.In these circumstances, I find that is it unreasonable to allow Ms. Mu’s pause request. The Dispute Notice was properly filed within the limitation period and its subject-matter is within the tribunal’s jurisdiction. The dispute resolution process will continue. Nothing in this decision prevents Ms. Mu from making a fresh request to pause the tribunal process should her circumstances change.
- 27.For these reasons, Ms. Mu’s request to pause the tribunal process is denied.