Civil Suits Time Limits to Change

Lynsey Kitching
BC’s new law that sets the amount of time people have to file civil lawsuits will come into effect June 1, 2013. When it comes into force, the Limitation Act will set out new limitation periods. There will be a single, two-year limitation period for most civil claims, such as those that involve personal injury. 
Also, there will be an ultimate limitation period for legal matters that may not be discovered right away, in which case people will have up to 15 years to file most civil lawsuits.
These changes are consistent with reforms happening throughout Canada, better aligning BC’s law with other provinces. The reforms simplify and clarify the law, while also ensuring that people affected by it have enough time to become aware of their legal claim, consult with a lawyer and file a lawsuit. 
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond says, “Our government is focused on making the justice system more timely and efficient. The changes set out by the new Limitation Act make the law easier to apply, while balancing the rights of both plaintiffs and defendants.”
Limitation periods impact things such as record-keeping practices, professional training requirements and the cost and availability of insurance.
These reforms have been welcomed by many professionals whose work is often exposed to long-term liability risk, such as dentists, engineers, construction professionals and local governments, because setting time limits on how long people have to make the decision to sue can provide businesses and professionals with a greater capacity for long-term planning. 
Steve Fleck, P. Eng., president of the board, Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC says, “Having participated in the extensive consultations that went into updating the Limitation Act, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC will be very happy to welcome this legislation when it takes effect in June 2013.”
The modernized Limitation Act was the result of extensive research and stakeholder discussion, including a green paper, a white paper, and more than five years of consultations with over 300 individuals, consumer groups, and business, legal and health-care professionals.
The Limitation Act was passed by the BC legislature this spring. Setting the implementation date on June 1, 2013 allows the legal community and other stakeholder’s time to familiarize themselves with the changes.
The ministry is working with the Law Society of BC and the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC to develop educational materials that will provide support during the transition to the new law. Bruce LeRose, QC, president of the Law Society of BC says, “The new Limitation Act is a significant improvement on the old act and remedies a number of issues that have arisen with the 37-year-old legislation.”