On June 1, 2013, the new Limitation Act (New Act) came
into force. The New Act changes the time limits for filing civil
lawsuits. It replaces the previous two-, six- and 10-year
limitation periods with a basic limitation period beginning two
years from "discovery" and replaces the previous 30-year
ultimate limitation period with a 15-year period commencing from
the date of the act or omission that forms the basis of the claim
(with some exceptions). In many cases, limitations may expire much
earlier under the New Act than they would have under the former
Limitation Act (Old Act).
The changes follow those made in other provinces with modernized
limitation statutes, such as Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New
Brunswick. The rationales behind the reform were that the
limitation periods under the Old Act have caused confusion, there
was a desire to promote certainty across provinces, and there was a
need to modernize the Old Act in response to calls from a broad
range of stakeholders. However, it should be noted that the British
Columbia Legislature has chosen to depart from the precedent set by
other provinces in a number of respects.
"Discovery" is a defined term under the New Act and
may differ from "discoverability" under the Old Act. It
is important to note that "discovery," as statutorily
defined, does not necessarily require actual knowledge that a claim
exists. Moreover, the New Act provides special rules for assessing
when certain causes of action are deemed to have been
"discovered." In some cases, the new rules will result in
limitation periods commencing earlier than they would have under
the old rules. Additionally, changes to the ultimate limitation
period could drastically accelerate the drop-dead date for many
claims. Under the New Act, the ultimate limitation period is not
only halved to 15 years, but will also start running from the time
of the act or omission upon which the claim is based, rather than
from the accrual of a cause of action. For example, the limitation
period may commence before a plaintiff has suffered damages from a
defendant's act or omission, unlike under the Old Act.
The New Act includes transitional rules for "pre-existing
claims," as defined by the Old Act. The transitional rules
preserve the old two-, six- and 10-year limitation periods for
"pre-existing claims" that had not been
"discovered" by the June 1, 2013, effective date, while
potentially making such claims subject to provisions of the New
Act, such as the definition of "discovery" and, in some
cases, the new 15-year ultimate limitation period. The
interpretation and application of both the definition of a
"pre-existing claim" and the transitional limitation
period for such a claim may be less than straightforward in some
instances. Legal advice is recommended with respect to any claim
potentially falling within the transitional rules.
In addition, a variety of complex exceptions may apply under the
New Act, and each specific situation should be carefully considered
with legal guidance. Companies and individuals are well advised to
carefully consider aging discovered, but unfiled claims, and seek
legal advice on the applicable period. In particular, potential
claims that are close to or more than two years old should be
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