Effective June 1, B.C.'s new Limitation Act changes the time limits for filing civil lawsuits, making the process simpler and clearer for British Columbians.
Limitation periods put a cap on the length of time people have to sue, providing clarity and certainty around when liability begins and ends, and ensuring citizens have the ability to access the civil justice system to seek recourse for a legal problem.
The new Limitation Act establishes a single, two-year "basic limitation period" for most civil claims, such as those that involve personal injury or defamation. Generally, for these cases the clock that measures how much time people have to file a civil lawsuit starts to tick as soon as plaintiffs discover they have a legal claim.
The act also creates an "ultimate limitation period" of 15 years for legal claims which may not be discovered right away, such as undetected medical complications resulting from surgery. Under the new law, plaintiffs have 15 years from the date that the "act or omission" occurred - whatever action that gave rise to their legal claim - to discover their claim and start a civil lawsuit.
B.C.'s former limitation law allowed for a variety of different basic limitation periods and had an ultimate limitation period that could extend up to 30 years, often leading to confusion among the public, legal profession and other professions around time limits, and resulting in complex trials.
Changes to the new law followed a model that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada put forward in an attempt to develop a more harmonized approach to limitations law across the country. As a result, B.C.'s Limitation Act now is more in line with other provinces, helping B.C. businesses and professionals remain competitive, since limitation periods can affect things like the cost and availability of insurance, how financial arrangements are structured and how organizations determine their records management policies.
- The new Limitation Act was passed by the legislative assembly on April 26, 2012. It replaces and repeals B.C.'s former Limitation Act on June 1, 2013.
- The former Limitation Act had not been comprehensively reviewed since its introduction in 1975.
- The new Limitation Act was the result of significant consultation with the public, stakeholders and legal and local government representatives. Government heard from 290 groups and individuals during the initial consultations, and 68 people and organizations made submissions to the 2010 white paper.
- Exceptions to the two-year basic limitation period under the new Limitation Act are civil claims that enforce a monetary judgment, exempted claims and actions that have limitation periods set by other statutes.
Resources on B.C.'s new Limitation Act: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/limitation-act/2012.htm
Transition rules flowchart: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/limitation-act/pdf/LAFlowchart.pdf