Wednesday, December 23, 2020

COVID-19 and legal deadlines to start lawsuits

In British Columbia, there are time deadlines for when most civil lawsuits must be started to pursue the underlying claims.  These time periods are called "limitation periods."  The length of the limitation period varies depending on the legal basis for the claim.  Usually, if your lawsuit is not started by the end of your claim's limitation period (even if you're only one day late), you lose your right to sue and your claim is over, whether you like it or not.

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit us in BC in March, 2020, it prompted the powers-that-be to suspend or restrict of much of the operations of the court system.  Some forward-thinking people realized that this step could make it more difficult or even impossible for some claimants, whose limitation periods were about to expire, to file their civil lawsuits in time.  If that happened, those claimants could lose their right to pursue their claims.

So, the provincial government promptly passed a cabinet order (order in council) which suspended the running of most civil limitation periods in BC effective March 26, 2020.  In other words, for most civil claims, the limitation clock was deemed to have stopped ticking on that date.  That suspension was extended from time to time as the provincial state of emergency continued over the following months.

On December 21, 2020, the provincial government issued another order in council which ended the suspension of limitation periods for most civil claims effective March 25, 2021 (one year after the start date of the suspension).  The result is that (unless something changes in the meantime) most of the civil limitation periods in British Columbia which would have otherwise expired in the meantime will have been extended by exactly one year.

If you're interested in the technical details or you suffer from insomnia, the December 21, 2020, order in council is here.  The provincial government also released an explanatory document here

Note that this suspension of most civil limitation periods for a one-year period means exactly that:  The passage of time for limitation periods in those cases is deemed to have paused for that one-year period, and it resumes thereafter.  It does not mean that those civil limitation periods are all reset to zero as of March 26, 2021.

Now the qualifiers:

1.  Not all civil limitation periods enjoy the benefit of this one-year suspension.  There are exceptions.

2.  As 2020 has demonstrated, just about anything can happen, and it's possible that between now and March 25, 2021, the provincial government could issue another cabinet order to change this yet again.

3.  The law of limitation periods is very technical.  There are entire books written on the topic.  My note, above, barely scratches the surface.  Promptly get legal advice if you have a limitation question or issue.

Andrew.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A doctor's view on the proposed ICBC no-fault auto insurance plan.

Here's an article in the Vancouver Sun by a doctor regarding the proposed no-fault automobile insurance plan in BC.

Andrew.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The proposed change to no-fault automobile insurance in BC

Here's the link to a column in the Georgia Straight with a good explanation of why the proposed change to no-fault automobile insurance in BC is misguided.

Andrew.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Paperwork filed publicly to conclude a lawsuit


There have been articles in our trusty local newspaper over the last few months (such as this one) referring to lawsuits being "dismissed" and each party paying its own court costs.  In the case of this specific dispute, the lawsuit was ended by the filing of a Consent Order.

There are two common ways to end a lawsuit by agreement.  One of them is to file a court order (called a Consent Order or, sometimes, a Consent Dismissal Order) which typically includes terms to the effect that the lawsuit is dismissed as if it had been tried on the merits, and that each party agrees to pay its own court costs.  However, that does not mean that no money changed hands between the parties "behind the scenes," including either or both of damages and court costs.  There may be many other terms in the settlement or conclusion of a lawsuit, such as one or more parties signing a Release or that they agree to keep the settlement or conclusion confidential.

A filed Consent Order can be viewed by any member of the public (unless the court file is sealed for privacy reasons, such as in family law cases) simply by attending Court Registry during normal business hours and asking to review the court file, or by searching the court file online through Court Services Online (in either case, upon payment of a modest search fee -- the government always gets its slice).  By drafting such a Consent Order in terms similar to those used in this specific case, it allows the parties to end the lawsuit without revealing the details of that settlement or conclusion.

When reading similar future news articles, the only conclusion to be drawn safely is that the lawsuit is over.  What happened behind the scenes to get to that point remains unknown.





Friday, November 10, 2017

Ontario lawyers and contingency fee agreements


The rules regulating contingency fee agreements (percentage agreements) in Ontario have been in the limelight recently due to concerns raised with respect to the conduct of some lawyers.  For example, see this article in the Toronto Star from January, 2017:

https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2017/01/28/double-dipping-lawyers-taking-big-slice-of-injury-settlements.html


The Law Society of Upper Canada now has announced proposals to address these concerns:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/11/10/law-society-recommendations-take-aim-at-you-dont-pay-unless-we-win-cases.html


In British Columbia, we have had for years the kind of rules now proposed for Ontario contingency fee agreements, under Part 8 of the Legal Profession Act (British Columbia) (the "Act").  Among other things, pursuant to s. 67(2) of the Act, lawyers may not "double dip" (take a percentage of the client's settlement or award and take the client's "court costs" amount).  In addition, pursuant to s. 69(4) of the Act, a lawyer's bill must contain a detailed statement of the lawyer's disbursements (the expenses incurred by the lawyer on behalf of the client).

There are many other rules in Part 8 of the Act which are intended to regulate contingency fee agreements and other aspects of lawyers' bills.  The full text of Part 8 is here:

http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_98009_01#part8


The Code of Professional Conduct for lawyers in British Columbia also contains provisions regarding contingency fee agreements:

https://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/support-and-resources-for-lawyers/act-rules-and-code/code-of-professional-conduct-for-british-columbia/chapter-3-%E2%80%93-relationship-to-clients/#3.6-2


Fortunately, this regulatory gap now being addressed in Ontario simply doesn't exist here in British Columbia.

Andrew.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Technical glitch with the Contact Submission Form on my web site


Over the last few weeks I've had a technical glitch with the Contact Submission Form on my Contact page.  It seems that several messages sent to me using the form have not gotten through.  I'm sorry for this difficulty.

It appears that the problem is fixed now.  If you sent me a message but did not receive a reply, please don't hesitate to re-send it through the Contact page, or simply call me:

          250-564-5544 or toll-free 1-877-964-5544

 Thank you for your understanding.

Andrew.