Limitation Periods (20:App F)

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A claim is governed by the (old) Limitation Act, RSBC 1996, c 266 [Old Limitation Act] if discovery occurred before June 1, 2013329. The definition of discovery is given in the (new) Limitation Act and may be found in the corresponding section of this Appendix. Under the (old) Limitation Act, the limitation period depends on the type of claim and who the other party is. A claim may consist of several causes of action and each cause of action may have a separate/different limitation period.

The (new) Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c 13 [Limitation Act] came into effect on June 1, 2013. A claim is governed by this Act if the claim was discovered after this date, unless the facts underlying the claim arose before the effective date and the limitation period under the old Limitation Act, RSBC 1996, c 266 [Old Limitation Act] has expired330.

The Notice of Claim must be filed before the limitation period expires. If a notice of claim has not been served within 12 months after it was filed, it expires, but the claimant may apply to have it renewed331.

1. Old Limitation Act[edit]

Generally, time limitations begin to run from the date of the breach (when all of the elements of the cause of action came into existence). This Act does NOT apply to actions listed under s 3(4), including actions for sexual assault or misconduct. Time limits for the more common causes of action are:

  • Default limitation period: 6 years (s 3(5));
  • Breach of contract: 6 years (insurance: one year); generally notice period required (note: see bullet point immediately below);
  • Damages for the injury of person or property (including economic loss arising from the injury), whether based on contract, tort, or statutory duty: 2 years (Limitation Act, s 3(2)(a));
  • Debt: six years (from the date of the last acknowledgment of the debt, with some exceptions);
  • Enforcement of local judgement for money or return of personal property: 10 years (s 3(3)(f));
  • Ultimate limitation period: 30 years after all elements of a given cause of action are complete (after all damages have occurred). Applies to all claims falling under the (old) Limitation Act except for exceptions under s 8(1);
  • Special ultimate limitation period for hospitals, hospital employees and doctors: 6 years (s 8(1)).

In most cases, the action lapses when the time limit expires. In some circumstances, s 6 of the Limitation Act allows for the running of the basic limitation period, but NOT the ultimate limitation date, to be postponed. Notably, this is the case for actions for personal injury, damage to property, professional negligence, and any action based on fraud ordeceit. In these circumstances the running of time does not begin until such time as the identity of the defendant is known to the plaintiff, and a reasonable person, making normal and appropriate inquiries would have discovered a cause of action to exist332. The limitation period is renewed (up to the 30 year ultimate limitation period) if the cause of action is confirmed (s 5) by the defendant’ s acknowledgement or part payment of the amount claimed before the original limitation period expires.

NOTE: Where an action has already been commenced, the court has the discretion to allow a third party to be added even if the limitation period for a claim against that third party has expired. See Teal Cedar Products(1977) Ltd. v Dale Intermediaries Ltd. (1996), 19 B.C.L.R. (3d) 282 (C.A.) and Wadsworth v Macleod (2004), B.C.S.C., 1824 for a discussion. The court will consider factors such as: the extent of the delay, the reason for the delay, any explanation put forward to account for the delay, the degree of prejudice caused by the delay, and the extent of the connection, if any, between the claims and the proposed new cause of action.

2. New Limitation Act[edit]