July, 14th, 2010- As of July 1st, 2010 every personal injury claimant now has to state the legal basis of their claim in the Notice of Civil Claim filed in our Supreme Court. With the change in the Court Rules lawyers in British Columbia are grappling with what a concise summary of the legal basis on which the plaintiff intends to rely really means.
The term “basis” is defined, in part, in the Black’s law Dictionary as, “fundamental principle; groundwork; support.” The term “legal basis” therefore implies having to state the fundamental legal principle of the case. This is singular, not plural, so it appears if the claim you are making is one of negligence, that would be the only basis required to be stated. However, in explaining what to put under this heading the form for the Notice of Civil Claim (NOCC) states:
“[Using numbered paragraphs, set out a concise summary of the legal bases on which the plaintiff(s) intend(s) to rely in support of the relief sought and specify any rule or other enactment relied on. The legal bases for the relief sought may be set out in the alternative.]” (emphasis added)
Bases is the plural of basis and implies that more than one basis must be listed. Confused? To make it worse the Guidelines for Representing Yourself in Supreme Court Civil Matters, produced by the Justice Education Society states:
“Set out the legal basis of your claim, including the Court Rules, legislation, and case law that support your claim (e.g., the defendant’s stairs were rotten and unsafe contrary to The Occupiers’ Liability Act, s. 3; calculation of damages in a wrongful dismissal case as described in Brown v. Smith, 2009 BCSC 200, etc.).”
This suggests that claimants may even have to go as a far as to quote caselaw in the NOCC which will be an incredible burden and often impossible without the assistance of a lawyer. The new rules also require the claimant to state any enactments relied upon. Again it is unclear as to how concise this list can be.
If this seems confusing to experienced personal injury lawyers in British Columbia I can only imagine how it sounds to an injury claimant with no legal background. As the court struggles with interpreting this new rule claimants, more than ever, will greatly benefit from having a lawyer prosecute the injury case for them.
In my view the litigation process is now beginning before the lawsuit is even filed and injury claimants without lawyers are not equipped to properly prepare their cases in light of these changes. Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness
Issue: Should claimants have to state the legal basis of their claim in order the file a lawsuit?