British Columbia's new Limitation Act1
came into force two years ago on June 1, 2013. The new Act
brought with it a number of changes to the "default"
limitation regime in the province, including shorter limitation
periods and new "discoverability" requirements.
Like its predecessor,2 the new Act sets the
governing limitation period unless another law establishes the
limitation period.3 The new Act creates two
distinct limitation periods – a single two-year
"basic" limitation period, and a 15-year
"ultimate" limitation period.4 This is in
contrast with the regime under the former Act, where two-,
six- and ten-year basic limitation periods applied, depending on
the particular cause of action being pursued by the plaintiff, as
well as a 30-year ultimate limitation period.5
The basic two-year limitation period is the one that will apply
to most civil claims. This means that, under the new Act,
a lawsuit must be commenced no later than two years after the day
on which a claim is discovered.6 June 1, 2015 therefore
marks an important date under the new regime, because it is the
first date that a basic limitation period under the new
Act could hypothetically toll. Claims brought after the
expiry of the limitation period will be statute-barred, meaning
that claimants will be prevented from pursuing remedies that would
otherwise have been available.
The ultimate limitation period has also been reduced under the
new Act. This limitation period applies to situations
where the basic limitation period has yet to expire, and is meant
to protect against the prosecution of stale claims. Unlike the
former Act, the ultimate limitation period under the new
Act begins to run from the date that the "act or
omission on which the claim is based took
Given that both the basic and ultimate limitation periods have
been shortened under the new Act, potential claimants must
now be even more aware of when their claim arose in order to ensure
that a relevant limitation deadline is not missed.
It is also important to note that the new Act does
not apply retroactively in most circumstances, so the former
Act will still apply to most claims discovered before June
1, 2013.8 However, the former Act, unlike the
new Act, did not have a discoverability provision
applicable to all claims. So according to the B.C. Ministry of
Justice, a claimant must first look to the new Act to
determine whether a claim has been
Generally speaking, under the new Act, a claim is
discovered on the first day on which a person knew or reasonably
ought to have known the following:10
that injury, loss or damage had occurred;
that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to
by an act or omission;
that the act or omission was that of the person against whom
the claim is or may be made; and
that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or
damage, a court proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to
remedy the injury, loss or damage.
Understandably, there could be circumstances where it is unclear
whether a claim has been discovered before the in-force date of the
new Act. In such instances, it would likely be prudent to
commence a claim prior to the expiration of the earlier limitation
period to avoid the potential for missing the relevant limitation
June 1, 2015 marks the first day that the basic two-year
limitation period under the new Act could potentially
toll. This means that litigants could be out of luck if they try to
start an action if more than two years have passed since the claim
In the days following June 1, 2015, companies and individuals
will want to take stock of disputes they are involved in –
particularly where court proceedings have not yet been commenced
– and seek advice on how the new Act could impact
those disputes moving forward.
1 SBC 2012, c 13.
2 RSBC 1996, c 266.
3 British Columbia, Ministry of Justice,
"Limitation Act" (Victoria, BC,
June 27, 2014).
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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