Legal News

BC's New Limitation Act: Time is of the Essence

BritishColumbia’s newly enacted Limitation Act  will come into force on June 1, 2013. Whilethe delay is designed to allow the legal community and other stakeholders timeto familiarize themselves with the new legislation, there are a number oftransition rules and some new “discovery” rules employers will want to takenote of now.

The Limitation Act sets out the time limitclaimants have to start a civil proceeding in court. While some statutes have their own limitationperiods, the Limitation Act sets thedefault time limit where a statute is otherwise silent or the claim is notbased on statute. A court proceeding commencedoutside a limitation period is typically dismissed on the basis that it is “statute-barred.”

Subject to exceptions,there are essentially two limitation periods under the new Limitation Act: (1) the “basic” limitation period applicable tomost civil claims, such as wrongful dismissal, which is 2 years after the day onwhich the claim is discovered; and (2) the “ultimate” limitation periodapplicable to most claims that may not be immediately discovered, such as negligencein engineering a new bridge. The ultimate limitation period is 15 years afterthe day on which the act or omission on which the claim is based took place.The corresponding limitations under the current legislation range from 2 – 10years for the basic limitation period to 30 years for the ultimate limitationperiod.

The 2-yearbasic limitation period does not apply to claims by governments. The Actextends that time period to 6 years.

Subject to certainexceptions, the Act containstransition rules which provide that claims discovered after May 31, 2013 aresubject to the limitation periods under the new Limitation Act, while claims discovered prior to June 1, 2013 aresubject to the current legislation. As a result, employers and other interestedparties should carefully document specifics around claims discovered betweennow and next June in order to preserve any advantages afforded by thetransition rules.