On June 1, 2013 a new British Columbia Limitation Act came into force. The new Act replaces the existing deadlines within which legal claims must be filed. Under the old Act, the deadlines varied depending on the type of claim. A claim that involved damage to a person or to property had to be filed within two years. A good example of this is a claim for personal injuries and/or property damage arising from a car accident. A breach of contract claim or debt claim had to be filed within six years. The new Act provides one basic deadline of two years for most claims. This deadline begins to run when a claim is or should have been discovered.
Apart from builders lien claims which are governed by separate legislation, claims for payment under a contract such as a credit application or personal guarantee now have to be filed within two years from the date that the claim is or should have been discovered.
A claim is discovered and the deadline to file the lawsuit will begin to run on the first day when you knew or ought to have reasonably known all of the following:
(a) that injury, loss or damage has occurred;
(b) that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an “act or omission”;
(c) that the “act or omission” was that of the person against whom the claim may be made; and
(d) that a court proceeding would be the appropriate means to seek a remedy.
The right to file a lawsuit expires two years after all of these facts are known. It should be noted that this deadline can be extended if a person acknowledges liability with respect to the claim before the deadline expires. For example, a partial payment on account will constitute an acknowledgement and will extend the deadline to sue for debt a further two years.
In most situations, if you miss a limitation period you are barred from starting any legal proceedings. It is important that you identify appropriate limitation periods that may be applicable to your circumstances and seek legal advice well in advance.
It should be noted that the new Act is not retroactive. The old deadlines will apply to claims which were discovered before June 1, 2013.