04 June 2013

New Limitation Act in Force

The new provincial Limitation Act came into force on 1 June 2013, repealing and replacing the old Limitation Act. The new act has some important consequences for family law matters; read on.

The Limitation Act is an important law that sets the deadlines, called "limitation periods," by which particular claims must be made in court before they expire. After the limitation period for a claim, the claim can no longer be brought.

The new Limitation Act doesn't apply to certain claims, including:
  • certain claims for the possession of land;
  • claims relating to property provided as collateral for a debt or obligation;
  • claims relating to sexual assault; and
  • claims relating to assault if the assault happened when the claimant was a minor.
Most importantly, from a family law point of view, the act doesn't apply to claims for assault in circumstances of family violence or to claims for arrears of child support or spousal support, whether the arrears came from an order or an agreement. Claims like these can be brought at any time, without limitation.

Under s. 6, the general limitation period for claims covered by the act is 2 years. Section 7 has a special rule for claims to enforce money judgments or claims for the return of personal property. These claims must be brought within 10 years.

Limitation periods begin on the day when the claim is "discovered." In other words, the clock starts to tick on the day the claimant realizes that a claim could be made. Under s. 8, a claim is discovered when the claimant knows, or ought to know, all of the following:
  1. that injury, loss or damage had occurred;
  2. that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission;
  3. that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is or may be made;
  4. 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.
The act provides special discovery rules for certain people, including principals, agents, minors and persons under a legal disability, and for certain claims, including claims based on fraud, claims for the recovery of trust property and claims relating to demand obligations like promissory notes. Other special rules are provided that extend limitation periods in certain circumstances, such as when the person against whom a claim could be made acknowledges liability or if the claimant becomes legally disabled.

Despite these special rules, s. 21(1) provides an ultimate limitation period of 15 years beginning on the dates described in subsections (2) and (3).

The act's transitional provisions have not been reproduced in the version posted on the BC Laws website. For that, you'll have to dig through the third reading bills posted on the website of the Legislative Assembly to find Bill 34 from the 4th session of the 39th parliament.

Read the Ministry of Justice's press release on the coming into force of the new act.