A limitation date is a specific period of time that people have to start a legal proceeding when suing in the civil justice system which includes suing in slip and fall claims.
In 2013, the current Limitation Act came into force which sets out the time limits for filing civil lawsuits. This new reformed act replaced the old act and it establishes a basic limitation period of 2 years from the date “a claim is discovered” to start a legal action for most legal claims including personal injury claims. What this means is that you are injured in a slip and fall accident or a motor vehicle accident, you have 2 years to the date of the accident to reach a settlement effectively ending the claim OR to commence a legal action. If you do neither, then your personal injury claim expires (ends) and you will lose all rights to compensation. For example, if your slip and fall accident happened on January 1, 2019, then the 2 year limitation date is January 1, 2021. You must, therefore, either resolve the slip and fall claim through settlement or file a lawsuit (Notice of Civil Claim) by January 1, 2021.
For the purposes of the 2 year limitation date, “a claim is discovered” when a person injured in a slip and fall accident knew, or reasonably ought to have known:
- that the injury, loss of damage has occurred;
- that the injury, loss or damage was caused by an act or omission;
- the identity of the person responsible; and
- that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a court proceed would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy the injury, loss of damage
The “discoverability rule” applies to all claims including slip and fall claims. It is most commonly applicable, however, not in slip and fall claims, but rather in medical malpractice claims where a patient does not become aware of a doctor’s mistake/negligence until a much later date. With slip and fall claims generally, it is inherently difficult to extend the limitation date due to the discoverability rule because it is obvious in most cases the date the accident occurred, the reason for the injury (act or omission of the property owner in relation to a hazard on the property) and the general identify of the property owner.
Landels v. Interior Health Authority 2005 BCSC 1182 is an example of a slip and fall claim being subject to the general 2 year limitation period and not an extension of the limitation period due to the discoverability rule.
In this case, the female injured claimant slipped and fell injuring her wrist while at Kelowna General Hospital. She visited her doctor and specialists regarding her injury. Through time and further investigation, the gravity and extent of the wrist injury did not become known until a much later date. It was only then that the injured claimant sought legal advice and a legal action was commenced although past the standard 2 year limitation date. The injured claimant argued that the limitation date should not be 2 years, but rather that it should be extended on the discoverability rule because she did not become aware of the gravity of the injury until a later date.
The slip and fall claim was dismissed on the basis that the injured claimant failed to bring a legal action by the 2 year limitation period. The judge did not accept that the discoverability rule applied to extend the limitation date because delayed knowledge of the extent of the injury alone does not delay the limitation period:
“ Ms. Landels’ cause of action was complete on 31 October 2001. By “cause of action” I mean the fact, or combination of facts, which give rise to a remedy in law. The gravity of the injury was not clearly defined by medical science until 3 July 2002, or, perhaps, January 2005. Delayed knowledge of the extent of the injury does not alone delay the running of the limitation period.
 Ms. Landels’ reluctance to initiate legal proceedings against her employer, for what was thought to be a minor injury, which would heal on its own, is not a serious, significant, or compelling reason to delay the initiation of her claim for two years and seven months.
 The only writing sent by the Health Authority to Ms. Landels, prior to the expiry of the limitation period, was the adjuster’s letter of 11 March 2003. A reasonable person could not take that introductory letter to be an admission of liability for the slip and fall of 31 October 2001.
 After 31 October 2003, Ms. Landels’ right to bring this action was proscribed by the Limitation Act. In result, the defendant’s application is allowed, the action is dismissed with costs.”