Tag: Rule 6-2

When a Two Year Limitation Period is Actually Three

In British Columbia many legal claims are subject to a two year limitation period.  Once a lawsuit is started in the BC Supreme Court a Plaintiff has a year to serve the claim on the Defendants being sued.   This period, totalling potentially three years, is considered when adding new parties to an existing lawsuit as demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.

In today’s case (Jamal v. Young) the Plaintiff was involved in a series of collisions and sued for damages.  The Plaintiff sought to add more parties to one of the claims beyond the expiration of the two year limitation period.  The application was opposed with the Defendants arguing the passage of time and limitation period was prejudicial.  The Court granted the application noting the relevant period to consider prejudice in these circumstances is three years.  Master Elwood provided the following useful summary of the law:

Continue reading

Plaintiff's Are "Entitled To Rely" On Representations of ICBC in Naming Defendants in Pleadings

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether a party should be substituted in on-going litigation where the Defendant was incorrectly named due to representations of ICBC.  In short the Court held substitution should be permitted in such circumstances.
In this week’s case (Bedoret v. Badham) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 motor vehicle incident.  After retaining counsel ICBC wrote to the Plaintiff’s lawyer indicating that the other motorist involved in the incident was a Mr. Badham.  The Plaintiff initiated a lawsuit against this individual.  After the limitation period expired ICBC responded to the lawsuit denying that Mr. Badham was involved in the incident.  The Plaintiff then sought to name ICBC as a ‘nominal defendant’ pursuant to section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC opposed the application.   Master Young criticized ICBC’s position calling it ‘astonishing‘ and finding that an order adding ICBC to the litigation was appropriate and further went on to award increased costs.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[16]         ICBC takes the astonishing position in this application that plaintiff’s counsel should not have relied on the March 1, 2010 letter setting out the third party particulars. If that letter cannot be relied on by the plaintiff’s counsel, then I wonder what the purpose of sending the letter is. The plaintiff’s counsel submits, and I accept, that it is standard practice in the personal injury bar to send an introductory letter asking ICBC for particulars and for copies of statements. It is common practice to wait for the reply letter before issuing a notice of civil claim. No letter was ever sent to the plaintiff’s counsel advising him that the contents of the March 1, 2010 letter were incorrect. It was not until the response to civil claim was filed after the expiry of the limitation period that ICBC informed the plaintiff that the named third party was not the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.
[17]         Now ICBC opposes the application to be added as a nominal defendant. It submits that the plaintiff knew or ought to have known that ICBC was handling this file as an unidentified motorist case despite the fact that the official letter from ICBC to his lawyer said exactly the opposite…
[22]         …ICBC asserted to counsel for the plaintiff in the official first letter that Jaswinder Badhan was the driver of the vehicle. This was long after any discussions with the unrepresented plaintiff and in response to the standard letter sent at the commencement of all motor vehicle accident cases. Plaintiff’s counsel was entitled to rely on the information contained in the letter. If ICBC later learned that it was in error, it had a responsibility to correct that error so as not to mislead the plaintiff. Failing to do so until after the expiry of the limitation period and then opposing the amendment to the claim is unreasonable…
[32]         I find that it is just and convenient to add ICBC as a nominal defendant. I do not find the delay in applying to court to be inordinate. I will not order that the action against Mr. Badhan be discontinued. I will order that the misnomer be corrected.
[33]         As a result of the unreasonable position taken by ICBC in this case, I find that Scale B costs do not adequately compensate the plaintiff, and I order that the proposed defendant, ICBC, pay costs to the plaintiff in any event of the cause at Scale C.

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.

Foreign Insurers Entitled to Rely on s. 103 Limitation Defence; Adding Defendant Beyond Limitation Discussed


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the ability of foreign insurers to rely on the s.103 limitation defence for no-fault accident benefits.
By way of background, BC’s Financial Institutions Act requires out of Province vehicle insurers to sign a “Power of Attorney Undertaking” in essence promising to provide the minimum insurance coverage available in BC when their insured vehicles are travelling in this Province.  As many North American jurisdictions have insurance limits well below those required in BC this often creates excess exposure for foreign insurers.
The Court of Appeal confirmed PAU signatories can take advantage of the limitation contained in s. 103 of BC’s Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation. The Court further discussed the common sense approach BC law imposes in adding a defendant to an existing lawsuit despite the availability of a limitation defence.
In today’s case (Moldovan v . Republic Western Insurance Company) the Plaintiff was injured while travelling as a passenger in a rented U-Haul vehicle.  The vehicle was insured by the Republic Western Insurance Company.  The Plaintiff sought no fault benefits and sued ICBC.  When he realized he sued the wrong insurer the limitation period under s.103 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation had passed.
He sought to add RWIC to the existing lawsuit which the Court of Appeal ultimately permitted.  In doing so the Court explained that while a foreign insurer PAU signatory can take advantage of the s. 103 limitation period the Court retains a discretion to add a Defendant to an existing lawsuit even beyond the limitation period due to section 4(1)(d) of BC’s Limitation Act and further due to the former Rule 15(5)(a) which is reproduced as the new Supreme Court Rule 6-2(7).  The Court provided the following reasons:
[17] As will be seen below, I am of the opinion that while s. 103 would normally be available to RWIC to assert in defence of the plaintiff’s claim, s. 4(1)(d) of the Limitation Act nevertheless does permit the court to join RWIC as an additional defendant. I also conclude that RWIC should be so joined in the circumstances of this case…
[25] I conclude that the chambers judge erred in declining to apply s. 103 on the basis that the PAU does not constitute an agreement to incorporate into RWIC’s insurance policy all the terms that are required to be incorporated in a policy issued by ICBC.  The fact that s. 103 was not incorporated into U-Haul’s rental contract did not make it somehow inapplicable to Mr. Moldovan, any more than the silence of a British Columbia policy on the question of limitation would make it inapplicable to a claim against ICBC.  As a person claiming benefits under Part 7 in a British Columbia action, the plaintiff is subject to the statutory limitation in s. 103.  No breach of the principle of extraterritoriality arises…

[27] I set out below the material provisions of s. 4 again for convenience:

4(1)      If an action to which this or any other Act applies has been commenced, the lapse of time limited for bringing an action is no bar to

(a)        proceedings by counterclaim, including the adding of a new party as a defendant by counterclaim,

(b)        third party proceedings,

(c)        claims by way of set off, or

(d)        adding or substituting a new party as plaintiff or defendant,

under any applicable law, with respect to any claims relating to or connected with the subject matter of the original action…

[35] The circumstances surrounding the plaintiff’s claim, which need not be rehearsed here, were reviewed by the Master.  Most important, he found that the plaintiff’s delay “resulted not from any tactical decision designed to gain an advantage for the plaintiff but from solicitor inadvertence or an honest error in judgment.”  As against this, RWIC has not alleged any particular prejudice. A helpful summary of the law on the weighing of relative prejudice in this context is found in the analysis of Martinson, J. in Wadsworth v. McLeod, supra:

Regard must be had for the presence or absences of prejudice. There must be a balancing of prejudices: Teal at p. 299. Prejudice can be assumed, or actual.

Prejudice means prejudice associated with the delay itself. The fact that an opposing party is affected negatively by such an amendment does not mean that he is prejudiced. The prejudice must affect the ability to respond to the amended claim: Bel Mar Developments Inc. v. North Shore Credit Union, [2001] B.C.J. No. 512, 2001 BCSC 388 at para. 9.

I agree with the following comments of Master Bolton in Takenaka v. Stanley, [2000] B.C.J. No. 288, 2000 BCSC 242 at paras. 41 and 42:

Putting aside any issues of actual prejudice in addition to the prejudice resulting from the loss of the cause of action or of the limitation defence, I am satisfied that the prejudice to a plaintiff in the former event will usually be greater than the prejudice to a defendant in the latter. In the former case the plaintiff loses the opportunity to ask a court to consider a claim that the defendant has done something the law of the land considers to be actionable. In the latter, the defendant loses a windfall opportunity to avoid the issue altogether. Their respective situations may be precisely balanced in purposely financial terms, but not, I conclude, as a matter of justice. A right to seek justice cannot fairly be equated with a right to cut short the search without an answer.

I believe that his analysis provides a firmer foundation for the conclusion I reached at paragraph 68 of the Mah decision ([2000] B.C.J. No. 44), that if all else is equal the balance of prejudice should be resolved in favour of the plaintiff.”  [At paras. 22-4.]

[36] In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that the balance of prejudice is clearly in the plaintiff’s favour, and that it is just and convenient that RWIC was added as a defendant notwithstanding the time limitation in s. 103 of the Regulation.  I would therefore dismiss the appeal and confirm the order of the chambers judge below, although for different reasons than those she expressed.

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.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer