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Tag: Limitation Periods

BC Court of Appeal Discusses the Unique Limitation Periods in Local Government Act

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing the unique nature of the notice limitation period for suing local governments.
In today’s case (Anonson v. North Vancouver) the Plaintiff was injured when her bicycle was struck by a truck.  After starting a lawsuit she obtained an order allowing her to add the City of North Vancouver as a Defendant.  The City was never given notice under the 2 month provisions required by the Local Government Act.  The question was whether the City could rely on this defense after being added to the lawsuit because ” It is settled law that the addition of a party to an action pursuant to R. 6-2(7) of the SCCR on the basis that it is “just and convenient” to do so generally will engage s. 4(1) of the Limitation Act and eliminate a party’s accrued limitation defence
The Court of Appeal held that the notice limitation period is unique from the Limitation Act and a local government can indeed still take advantage of this defense even after being added as a party to an existing lawsuit.  In reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeal reasoned as follows:

[38]         In British Columbia, notice provisions for local government have been interpreted as substantially different from limitation period provisions. The Legislature chose to treat local government differently from other litigants by requiring that local government be given notice within a short period following an incident to allow the City to investigate the potential claim.

[39]         Unlike the Limitation Act, s. 736 of the LGA (and the former notice provisions in s. 286 of the LGA and s. 755 of the Municipal Act) are not akin to a lapse of time in which to bring an action. The notice provisions do not function in the same way as limitation period provisions for the following reasons: (1) non-compliance with s. 736 of the LGA or its predecessors does not prevent a plaintiff from commencing or maintaining an action; (2) unlike the more objective language of s. 4(1) of the Limitation Act, the discretionary saving provision of s. 736(3) may or may not act as a bar to an action; and (3) the trial or appeal court must determine whether the discretionary saving provision applies based on the evidentiary record.

[40]         The notice provisions of the current and former legislation have never been captured by s. 4(1) of the Limitation Act when a party is added to an action because the trial or appeal court must first determine whether the saving provision applies. Neither Bannon, which interprets differently worded legislation, nor Neilson, which assumes that s. 4(1) of the Limitation Act is engaged, are applicable to this issue.

Court Finds ICBC's "Claim Payment Proposal" Extends Limitation Period

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:
[23]         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.
[24]         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.
[25]         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.
[26]         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.
[27]         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.
[28]         The defendants also cite Strassegger v. Harrison Hot Springs Resort Hotel Ltd., [1999] 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.
[29]         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.
[30]         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.
[31]         Accordingly, the application of the defendants is dismissed.

Court Critical of ICBC for Failing to Advise Unrepresented Party of Limitation Period

When advancing a tort claim with ICBC it is important to remember that they have no duty to advise you of your limitation period.  If the clock runs out before filing your lawsuit there is typically little a court can do other than offer words of criticism at ICBC for engaging in this practice.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating such a result.
In last week’s case (Tolentino v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 collision. He dealt with ICBC directly with the Court making the following findings about their interactions:
22]        …I find that on July 13, 2005, Mr. Tolentino told Ms. Brunac-White that he had not talked to anyone about his claim (including a lawyer) and Ms. Brunac-White advised Mr. Tolentino that it was not necessary to have a lawyer at that time. Ms. Brunac-White intended to discuss the matter with Mr. Tolentino after she obtained updated medical information. Mr. Tolentino was to contact her when he returned from a trip but he did not do so before the limitation period expired on January 10, 2006. Ms. Brunac-White did not attempt to contact Mr. Tolentino either, and she closed the file on February 2, 2006, after conducting a search for a writ of summons.
The Plaintiff ultimately started a lawsuit and ICBC applied to have it dismissed as being filed beyond the limitation period.  The court sided with ICBC and dismissed the lawsuit but prior to doing so Madam Justice Fisher provided the following criticism:
[23]        It is indeed unfortunate that Ms. Brunac-White made no effort to contact Mr. Tolentino before the limitation period expired. It would have been a simple task that could have served the interests of both parties. However, as the plaintiff concedes, ICBC as the insurer has no duty to advise him about the limitation period. Silence or inaction may be considered a representation only where the representor owes a legal duty to the representee to disclose something or take certain steps: Ryan v Moore, 2005 SCC 38…
[29]        I wish to add, however, that I was disturbed by the adjuster’s approach in this case. She sought to rely on an “agreement” with the plaintiff about the next steps but when he did not contact her after several months, she ought to have considered that there could have been a misunderstanding. While she may not have been successful in making contact with the plaintiff given his history, her failure to make any attempt to contact him before the limitation period expired was in my view unreasonable. She had a telephone number and could have left him a message. Although she did not have a legal duty to do so, given her knowledge of the claim, this would have been a more reasonable and fair approach.
[30]        The plaintiff’s action is dismissed…

Limitation Periods Not Determinative When Adding Parties to Existing Litigation

One of the exceptions to the strict application of limitation periods relates to adding parties to existing litigation.  In these circumstances an expired limitation period is not, in and of itself, a barrier to add a party to a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In this week’s case (Haworth v. Haworth) the Plaintiff was injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband in 2007.  The vehicle lost control in icy conditions.  She sued him for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC plead the “inevitable accident” defence and eventually added the appropriate road maintenance company as a Third Party.  The Plaintiff then sought to add this party as a  Defendant.  The Road Maintenance company objected arguing, among other matters, that the limitation period to sue them has expired.  Master Keighley found this unpersuasive and granted the Plaintiff’s application.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[39] There is, as previously confirmed, a presumption of prejudice if a proposed defendant will be deprived of a limitation defence by his addition as a party. Also, as previously indicated, the relevant period during which prejudice is to be assessed is that which follows the expiration, in this case, of the three year period following the date upon which the cause of action arose. The plaintiff will certainly suffer prejudice if her application is dismissed. She will lose a possible claim against a party or parties with potential liability. This issue, Wilson J. indicates in Walsh v. Blair, Vancouver Registry, Action No. M015646, BCSC, said as follows:

[22]      There is prejudice to the plaintiff in that if the application is not allowed, she will lose a right to claim against a party with potential liability. As noted in Takenaka v. Stanley (2000), 91 B.C.L.R. (3d) 179 (S.C. Master), that will usually outweigh the loss of a potential limitation defence to a potential defendant. Generally, the courts are reluctant to deprive a plaintiff of his or her day in court, so that the trend in the cases appears to be that it will take more than theoretical prejudice to outweigh the loss of that potential claim.

[40] The plaintiff’s potential peril becomes more significant when one considers that, should the application be dismissed, and should the present defendant succeed on the issue of unavoidable accident, she will be left without remedy although blameless with respect to the circumstances of the accident.

[41] Neither Her Majesty the Queen or Argo Thompson allege, as is often the case in such applications, that they have been prejudiced by an inability to investigate the claims against them. HMTQ has, of course, been aware of the potential claim since May 12, 2011 when the application to add the Third Parties was brought. There was no evidence of any investigation conducted by HMTQ after that date to the present. While it seems likely the government representatives would have discussed the potential claim with representatives of Argo Thompson at an early date, there is no evidence of that and I can make no such assumption. With respect to itsinvestigation, Argo Thompson says as follows (and this appears in Affidavit No. 2 of Yvonne Van Vliet, a paralegal in the employ of Argo Thompson’s counsel):

14.       Attached as Exhibit “J” to this affidavit is a true copy of the timecard signed by plough operator Chris Jones on November 12, 2007. Mr. Jones’ timecard indicates that he commenced his shift at 5:00 p.m., on November 12, 2007 and worked until 4:25 a.m., on November 13, 2007. On his timecard he recorded applying 41 cubic meters of winter abrasive (activity 310B) to the Coquihalla Highway during his shift.

15.       On May 22, 2012 I was informed by Tom Bone, General Manager for Argo, during a teleconference, that Chris Jones has not been employed with Argo since 2008, nor has Argo been in contact with him since 2008. Furthermore, Mr. Bone informed me that Argo is not aware of Chris Jones’ current address or contact information.

[42] There is no indication that Mr. Jones cannot be found, what reasonable steps have been taken to locate him, or even whether his evidence, beyond that contained in the records, is required for the defence of these claims. With respect to records, there is no evidence to suggest that any are missing or have been destroyed.

[43] In the circumstances, I find that there is no prejudice to these proposed defendants in making the order sought, whereas the potential prejudice to the plaintiff, should she be deprived of potential claims, is overwhelming. An order will go in the terms of the application. Costs will be in the cause.

BC Limitation Act Overhauled – Bill 34 Receives Royal Assent

Bill 34 received Royal Assent this week.  This legislation replaces BC’s Limitation Act which governs the time periods within which lawsuits must be brought.  It is expected to come into force within the upcoming year.
You can click here to read the Government’s press release relating to Bill 34 and here to review my initial comments when this legislation was first proposed.

ICBC "Does Not Have Any Duty" To Tell You When Your Claim Expires

Limitation periods are important.  If your case is not settled before your limitation period expires a formal lawsuit needs to be filed within time otherwise the right to pursue the claim effectively disappears.
When dealing with ICBC directly it is important not to rely on them for assistance in bringing limitation periods to your attention.  They are under no duty to tell you when your limitation is coming up.  ICBC is allowed to ‘run the clock’.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this reality.
In today’s case (Field v. Harvey) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  In her dealings with ICBC some discussions were had regarding settlement with ICBC writing a ‘without prejudice‘ letter referencing bills for massage therapy indicating that “we can discuss this at the time of settlement“.
The Plaintiff never did settle her claim.   She commenced a formal lawsuit but did so after her limitation period expired.  The Plaintiff argued that ICBC should be estopped from relying on the limitation period because of ICBC’s letter discussing settlement.  Mr. Justice Bracken disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so the Court provided the following words of caution:
[27] Finally, the defendants argue that ICBC does not have any duty, statutory or otherwise, to inform potential claimants of the specific date on which the right to commence an action upon a claim will expire…
[30] It is clear from the case law that ICBC was under no obligation to warn the plaintiff that the limitation period had commenced, was not postponed, and would soon expire….

[36] The plaintiff relies solely on the December 15, 2008, letter for her argument that the defence of estoppel can be applied as a defence to the provisions of the Limitation Act. That letter explicitly states: “[n]othing herein contained is or shall be construed as either an admission of liability on the part of the insured or a waiver or extension of any applicable limitation period.”

[37] A reasonable interpretation of this letter in no way evidences a representation or promise, by convention or otherwise, to waive or extend the applicable limitation period. In my opinion, it does quite the opposite by warning the plaintiff that, although all claims are negotiated toward the goal of settlement, time is still running.

[38] Limitation periods exist, in part, to encourage plaintiffs to bring their actions in a timely manner. The plaintiff has failed to bring her action in a timely manner and has not satisfied this court that there exists a lawful reason for her failure to comply with the provisions of the Limitation Act.

[39] The plaintiff’s cause of action is therefore dismissed, pursuant to s. 9 of the Limitation Act, as having been commenced after the expiry of the applicable limitation period.

Waiting For Police Report Held Insufficient to Postpone Limitation Period in ICBC Claim

Section 6(4) of the BC Limitation Act states in part that a limitation period “does not begin to run against a plaintiff…..until the identity of the defendant…is known to the plaintiff“.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering this provision in the context of an ICBC Claim.
In this week’s case (Telus Corporation v. Araneda) equipment owned by Telus was struck by a motor vehicle causing $43,000 in damage.  They sued the party they alleged was responsible but did so nine days after the limitation period expired.
Telus argued that the running of the period should be postponed by several days under s. 6(4) of the Limitation Act because it took 18 days for them to receive the police report identifying the defendant.  Mr. Justice McEwan rejected this argument and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[20]. On the day of the accident, Telus, through its employee Dale Summers, knew it had a claim for property damage and knew the name of the tortfeasor was immediately ascertainable from a reliable source, the RCMP.

[21] In saying so, I reject Telus’ argument that a large enterprise should be judged on its “ individual circumstances” and that its step-wise approach to the management of its legal claims is akin to the situation in Strata Plan LMS 2940 v. Quick as a Wink Courier, 2010 BCCA 74. There the Court of Appeal upheld a judge of this Court who had found that an action brought by a strata corporation against an individual one day outside the limitation period was not statute-barred because the strata corporation was obliged to pass a resolution before it could initiate the action, and doing so took some time.

[22] Telus was not impeded by a statutory prerequisite, and there is no reason in principle why a large organization should be judged by a more accommodating standard than would apply to any competent individual. As in Meeker, Telus knew on the first day of the accident that it had suffered actionable harm and that the name of the person involved was ascertainable.

[23] It is regrettable that the limitation period went by in this case. As some of the case law demonstrates Courts frequently go some distance to ensure that cases are tried on their merits. The policy inherent in limitation periods, however, must also be respected. Applying the relevant legal principles to the present case, Telus has not established that it is entitled to postponement, and the action must be dismissed.

Can you add a Party to a Lawsuit After the Limitation Period Expires?

Often times as a lawsuit progresses a Plaintiff learns of new allegations that could be made or new parties who may be responsible.  Lawsuits can take time to get to trial and often when these new revelations are made the limitation period to sue the new party has already expired.  When this happens can the party be added to the existing lawsuit?  The answer is yes, however, the Court’s permission must be granted to do so.  Today the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement providing a detailed overview of this area of law.
In today’s case (Chouinard v. O’Connor) the Plaintiff was injured in an altercation that took place during a lacrosse game.  He sued his alleged assailant and a variety of others alleging battery.  As the lawsuit progressed the Plaintiff wished to amend the claim to add allegations of negligence.  By the time this happened the limitation period to sue in negligence had expired.  The Plaintiff applied to Court to allow an amendment to the lawsuit but this was denied.  The Plaintiff appealed but was also unsuccessful.  In dismissing the matter the BC Court of Appeal provided the following useful legal overview addressing factors a Court should consider in allowing amendments to a claim after a limitation period has expired:

[17] This Court has considered the proper approach to amendments to pleadings after the expiry of a limitation period on numerous occasions.  The issue has arisen frequently under both former Rule 15(5)(a)(iii) (now replaced by Rule 6-2(7)), where a plaintiff wished to add a party after the expiry of the limitation period, and under former Rule 24(1) (now replaced by Rule 6-1(1)) where a plaintiff sought to plead a new cause of action against an existing defendant after the expiry of the limitation period for bringing the cause of action.

[18] In Teal Cedar Products (1977) Ltd. v. Dale Intermediaries Ltd. (1996), 19 B.C.L.R. (3d) 282, 34 C.C.L.I. (2d) 211, this Court determined that the Supreme Court has broad discretion to allow or disallow an amendment, holding that the overriding test is whether it is “just and convenient” to allow the amendment.  Finch J.A. (as he then was), with the concurrence of Ryan J.A., stated:

[36]      This application was brought … under Rule 24(1) which permits a party to amend pleadings at any time, with leave of the court.  The rule is discretionary and contains no criteria for the exercise of that discretion.

[37]      The rule most often involved in questions arising under the Limitation Act is Rule 15(5)(a)(iii). It is invoked on applications to add parties. Rule 15(5)(a)(iii) says that the court may order a person to be added as a party where there exists a question which, in the opinion of the court, would be “just and convenient” to determine as between a party and the person sought to be added. The qualifying phrase “just and convenient” is not to be found in Rule 24(1).

[38]      Discretionary powers are, of course, always to be exercised judicially. It would clearly be unjudicial to permit an amendment to pleadings under Rule 24(1) if it appeared to be either unjust or inconvenient to do so. So, even though the words “just and convenient” are not found in Rule 24, justice and convenience would, in my view, be relevant criteria for the exercise of the discretion found in that rule.

[45]      [T]he discretion to permit amendments afforded by … Rule 24(1) … was intended to be completely unfettered and subject only to the general rule that all such discretion is to be exercised judicially, in accordance with the evidence adduced and such guidelines as may appear from the authorities.  Delay, and the reasons for delay, are among the relevant considerations, and the judge should consider any explanation put forward to account for the delay. But no one factor should be accorded overriding importance, in the absence of a clear evidentiary basis for doing so.

[67]      In the exercise of a judge’s discretion, the length of delay, the reasons for delay and the expiry of the limitation period are all factors to be considered, but none of those factors should be considered in isolation. Regard must also be had for the presence or absence of prejudice, and the extent of the connection, if any, between the existing claims and the proposed new cause of action. Nor do I think that a plaintiff’s explanation for delay must necessarily exculpate him from all “fault” or “culpability” before the court may exercise its discretion in his favour….

[19] The concurring reasons of McEachern C.J.B.C. (Ryan J.A. also concurring) were to similar effect:

[74]      Applying the same principles regardless of whether the application is to add new defendants … or new causes of action, … I believe the most important considerations, not necessarily in the following order, are the length of the delay, prejudice to the respondents, and the overriding question of what is just and convenient.

[20] In Letvad v. Fenwick, 2000 BCCA 630, 82 B.C.L.R. (3d) 296, Esson J.A. for the Court cited from Teal Cedar, and then said:

[29]      My understanding of the phrase “completely unfettered” in this context is that the discretion is not fettered by the relevant legislation, i.e., the Rule and the Limitation Act.  It is, however, fettered to the extent that, as was held in Teal, it must be exercised judicially, in accordance with the evidence adduced and such guidelines as may appear from the authorities.  It was held inTeal that the guidelines to which the chambers judge is required to have regard include these:

– the extent of the delay;

– the reasons for the delay;

– any explanation put forward to account for the delay;

– the degree of prejudice caused by delay; and

– the extent of the connection, if any, between the existing claims and the proposed new cause of action.

[21] As can be seen from the chambers judgment in the case before us, this list of factors has come to be seen as a checklist in applications to add a cause of action or a party after the expiry of the limitation period.  It is sometimes forgotten that the list of factors is not an exhaustive one, and that the overriding concern is whether the proposed amendment will be “just and convenient”.  The factors listed in Teal Cedar and in Letvad will typically be important factors to be considered by a chambers judge, but the decision is ultimately a discretionary one.  Thus in Boutsakis & Kakavelakis, A Partnership v. Boutsakis, 2008 BCCA 13, 77 B.C.L.R. (4th) 113, this Court upheld the granting of amendments even though not all of the Teal factors had been specifically referred to in the judgment of the chambers judge.  Newbury J.A., speaking for the Court, said:

[21]      … [I]t seems to me that although the summary trial judge did not mention the authorities, she did consider many of the factors listed in Teal Cedar – the reasons for the plaintiffs’ delay, the question of prejudice to the appellants; Mr. Kakavelakis’ difficulty in obtaining Mr. Boutsakis’ cooperation in enforcing the Partnership’s rights against Crown Travel; and the overall context of the two actions generally.  Given the high degree of deference that is to be accorded to a discretionary decision of this kind, I see no basis on which this court should interfere with her conclusion that both amendments to the Statement of Claim in the “F” action should be permitted and given effect to notwithstanding that between the issuance of the writ in 1989 and the 1997 and 2004 motions to amend, fresh causes of action advanced by those amendments would have become barred by the lapse of time.

Change is Coming to BC Limitation Law

The Government of BC intends on overhauling the BC Limitation Act. As Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun points out, this proposed law reform is something that matters to everyone, not just personal injury lawyers and claimants.

The Government has released a White Paper discussing the proposed changes at length. The proposed New Limitation Act can be found at Appendix A of the White Paper. On review it is clear that the proposed changes are not concrete and the Government is seeking feedback before bringing the law into force.

Members of the public can contact the Government with any concerns or suggestions no later than November 15, 2010, at:

Civil Policy and Legislation Office

Justice Services Branch

Ministry of Attorney General

PO Box 9222 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J1

Fax: 250 387-4525


One of the goals of the reformed act is to “simplify” the law. On review there is nothing simple about the proposed new law and it seems every bit as complex as the current Limitation Act. There are some proposed changes that are noteworthy including:

Replacing varying basic limitation periods with a standard 2 year period

Reducing the Ultimate Limitation Period from 30 years to 10 or 15 years

Redefining “Discoverability” of a potential lawsuit

Abolishing the special ultimate limitation period for medical malpractice claims

Continuing to waive limitation periods for civil lawsuits for damages as a result of sexual assault

There are other proposed changes as well and I suggest that anyone interested in this topic review the proposed new law in full.  If you have concerns about how these reforms may affect your rights or have suggestions for improved changes please be sure to contact the Government prior to the November 15 deadline.

BC Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits – A Video Discussion

Here is a video I recently uploaded to YouTube providing a brief overview of some of the unique legal issues that provide an advantage to abuse victims when suing in the BC Civil Courts:

Last month I authored a handful of articles discussing some of the unique laws that apply to Civil abuse claim lawsuits.  These include the law of limitation periods, the law of non-pecuniary damages, and the law of vicarious liability.
Due to some of the positive feedback I received after authoring these articles I thought it may be helpful to summarize some of my advice in this brief video.  I hope this video and these articles are of some assistance.

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