A new Limitation Act (Bill 34) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia on April 16, 2012. The proposed new legislation will reduce, to some extent, the time limits for filing civil lawsuits in British Columbia. If passed, the new legislation will replace the current Limitation Act. While there may be some who are opposed to the limitation period reduction, the proposed new Act will arguably make the law easier to understand and bring BC’s law more in line with other provinces.
The current Limitation Act has a variety of different limitation periods for different types of claims. For example, personal injury claims have a limitation period of two years, while breach of contract claims have a limitation period of six years. The proposed new Limitation Act adopts a limitation period of two years from the date that the claiming party knew, or should reasonably have known, that he or she had a claim. Exceptions to the two year limitation period include claims that are governed by limitation periods set out in other statutes. For instance, the Wills Variation Act provides that a wills variation claim must be brought within 6 months from the date of the issue of probate of the will in British Columbia. This 6 month limitation period will continue to apply to wills variation actions.
Under the current Act and the proposed Act, there are provisions which permit the postponement of the running of the limitation period depending upon various circumstances; however, the proposed Act, if passed, will also reduce the ultimate limitation period for most claims from 30 years to 15 years. The ultimate limitation period will be suspended if a defendant wilfully concealed from the claiming party, facts about an injury, loss or damage, or that he or she was responsible for the act or omission. Certain exempt claims with no limitation period (such as a claim relating to sexual assault) under the current Act will remain exempt under the proposed Act.
It is not clear when the new Limitation Act will actually be passed and come into effect, but it should be in the relatively near future.
Significant changes to legislation are typically the subject of comprehensive discussions amongst stakeholders and result in the issuance of government “white” papers which contain recommendations and are circulated. In this case the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General previously issued a White Paper which can be accessed through the Ministry’s website.