Monday, June 07, 2021

One of the potential risks of less-than-rigorously-completed sale transactions, this time involving bitcoin ...


The BC Supreme Court recently handed down a decision involving a claim by a buyer of bitcoin against the seller who failed to transfer the bitcoin to the buyer:

The sale was supposed to have completed in June, 2019, when the buyer paid the seller $535,000 (in traditional Canadian funds) for 50 bitcoin.

In February, 2021, about a month before the trial proceeded in court, that 50 bitcoin was worth a little over $3,000,000.

The court held that the buyer could obtain judgment against the seller, but only for the purchase price of $535,000, not for the (much higher) current fair-market value of the bitcoin.  The rationale was that the parties to the transaction effectively allocated in their bargain the risk that the bitcoin might go up or down in value (relative to Canadian funds) after the transaction, and the fact that the buyer turned out to be correct when the bitcoin later increased in value did not justify awarding him that lost increased value.

The judge also ordered the seller to pay pre-judgment "court order interest" to the buyer from June, 2019, to the date of judgment.  (The rate of pre-judgment interest from June, 2019, until the trial in March, 2021, varied from 1.95% to 0.45%.)


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 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 issued an order 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 paused 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 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) many of the civil limitation periods in British Columbia will have been extended by exactly one year.

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.

Note as well the following:

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

2.  Not all limitations are extended by a full one-year period.  Depending on when the cause of action arose (meaning, when the basis for the claim happened) or when the claim was discoverable, the extension might be for less than a full year.

3.  This potential extension applies only to certain civil claims based on the law of British Columbia.  Claims against parties in other provinces or the territories, or based on federal legislation (the laws of Canada), might not enjoy a similar extension of time.

The law of limitation periods is very technical, and the courts tend to enforce the limitation rules very strictly.  There are entire books written on the topic.  The above note barely scratches the surface.  Promptly get legal advice if you have a limitation question or issue.


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.


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.


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:

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

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:

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

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