Wrongful Death Claims in BC and the Definition of "Spouse"
BC’s Family Compensation Act permits a defined class of family members to sue for damages following the wrongful death of a loved one. Spouses are part of this defined class. However, the definition of spouse goes beyond legally married individuals and also includes a person who “lived and cohabited with the deceased in a marriage-like relationship, including a marriage-like relationship between persons of the same gender, for a period of at least 2 years ending no earlier than one year before the death“.
In last week’s case (James v. Gillis) Ms. James died in a motor vehicle collision in 2006. Mr. Cornet claimed he was the spouse of Ms. James and sought damages under the Family Compensation Act. ICBC took the position that he was not a spouse as defined by the Act and denied the claim. The matter went to trial and ultimately Madam Justice Watchuk agreed that Ms. Cornet was a “spouse” as defined by the FCA and was able to claim damages.
While the relevant discussion is far too lengthy to reproduce here, the Court extensively canvassed the law regarding the definiton of spouse and “marriage-like relationship” for the purpose of FCA claims at paragraphs 48-52 of the reasons for judgement and these are worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in this area of the law.
While on this topic I should again point out that a proposed amendment to the Family Compensation Act passed First Reading this Spring and will hopefully pass into law during the Legislature’s next session.