More on the Shortcomings of BC Wrongful Death Laws and the Tragedy of Georgia Luge Competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili

The Olympics are now over. British Columbians (and all Canadians for that matter) have much to be proud of. The Olympic Games have been a great success and created a sense of national unity and pride that have been unparellelled. As a Canadian I am proud of these games and the historic success of our athletes. Canadians will not soon forget where they were when Sidney Crosby scored his spectacular overtime goal to claim Olympic Gold.

With the dust settling, however, one story that has not gone away was the cloud that the Olympics started under with the unfortunate and tragic death of Georgia Luge Competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili.

When this news broke I shared my immediate thoughts on the tragedy.

Since authoring my article I’ve been approached by a handful of people to further share my views. I’ve been asked to comment on some of the specific shortcomings of British Columbia law that I alluded to in my initial article. After having this discussion several times I thought I would share some of my thoughts by way of this follow up post.

If a person dies through the carelessness of others in British Columbia the BC Family Compensation Act governs claims for compensation brought by survivors. This outdated law has been the subject of much criticism due to its restrictions for survivors rights. I could not have commented on the shortcomings of BC Wrongful Death law better than the TLABC (Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia) who have just released their comprehensive views of the need for overhaul of BC Wrongful Death laws.  You can find these here and I strongly urge anyone interested in reform in this area to review TLABC’s submissions in full

Another shortcoming under BC Law is the quick notice limitation period contained in the BC Local Government Act.

Local Governments, are defined under the act as:

(a) the council of a municipality, and

(b) the board of a regional district;

If you are injured and can bring a claim against a Local Government you will lose your right to make your claim unless you comply with s. 286 of the local government act which provides as follows:
Immunity Unless Notice Given To Municipality After Damage
(1) A municipality is in no case liable for damages unless notice in writing, setting out the time, place, and manner in which the damage has been sustaibed, is delivered to the municipality within 2 months from the date on which the damage was sustained.

(2)        In case of the death of a person injured, the failure to give notice required by this section is not a bar to the maintenance of the action.

(3)        Failure to give the notice or its insufficiency is not a bar to the maintenance of an action if the court before whom it is tried, or, in case of appeal, the Court of Appeal, believes

(a)        there was reasonable excuse, and

(b)        the defendant has not been prejudiced in its defence by the failure or insufficiency.

Assuming that Local Governments had some responsibility for the design/set up / access to the now world famous Whistler Sliding Centre this limitation period would be triggered for anyone advancing an injury claim against the Local Governments. While this legislation does have an exclusion for claims involving “death” this limitation period has operated to strip the rights of many seriously injured people following alleged negligence of Local Governments.

When people are forced to deal with the consequences of a tragedy it is very harsh to take away their right to seek lawful compensation if they fail to turn their mind to litigation within two months.

The above examples are some of the first which came to mind when asked to comment on the shortcomings of British Columbia Personal Injury Law. While I am generally very proud of the tort system we have in this Province it is important to point out areas where there is room and need for improvement.

BC Wrongful Death Laws, Family Compensation Act, Georgia Luge Competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili, Local Government Act, TLABC, Tort Reform, Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

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Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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