by The Honourable Geoff Plant, Attorney General of British Columbia
The Ministry of Attorney General has initiated a review of the law of civil liability. To support this project, we have recently published a consultation paper, entitled “Civil Liability Review.” The paper is intended to elicit the views of British Columbians about possible legislative reform in the law of civil liability. I would like to thank the CBA for giving me this opportunity to encourage the Bar to participate in this important law reform initiative and to emphasize how important your views are to the success of this project.
The Civil Liability Review affords the opportunity to consider the current state of the law on civil liability, and how it should evolve. In recent speeches to the legal profession, I have posed the critical question: is it time to impose limits on growth? Over time, statutory and common law changes have resulted in the expansion of the scope of civil liability, generally benefiting plaintiffs. It is now appropriate to ask whether these developments have adequately taken into account the important factors of predictability, certainty and practicality in the civil justice system and whether a reasonable balance has been struck between the rights of plaintiffs and defendants.
Through the Civil Liability Review I would like to address whether our current civil liability regime meets tort law goals in a manner that is fair and rational. The consultation paper identifies the following areas for possible legislative reform:
- the provisions of the Limitation Act;
- the principle of joint and several liability in the Negligence Act;
- costs under the Class Proceedings Act;
- the vicarious liability of employers, and the new tests for “scope of employment”;
- the non-delegable duty doctrine; and
- structured damage awards.
The paper is accompanied by a questionnaire which is designed to assist respondents in providing their views on particular issues of interest. However, I would ask that you not limit your response to the particular questions posed. Your input is also sought more broadly on recommendations for reform in other areas of the civil justice system.
I wish to emphasize that the Civil Liability Review is intended to be a consultative process, and the government has no pre-determined view of what legislative reforms should result. This government has recently reaffirmed its commitment not to adopt a no-fault system of auto insurance in British Columbia, and no-fault is not on the table in this Review. The purpose of the Civil Liability Review is to elicit views on the specific areas identified, and any other areas of civil liability identified by respondents as needing reform. By publishing the consultation paper, I hope to continue a public discussion with a view to establishing a civil justice system that balances the needs of all litigants.
The Civil Liability Review consultation paper is available on the Ministry of Attorney General Web site (www.gov.bc.ca/ag), as is a copy of the questionnaire. The deadline for the receipt of comments on the consultation paper has been extended from June 15, 2002 to October 1, 2002, to ensure that all affected groups have the opportunity of full response.
The feedback we receive through the Civil Liability Review will help shape future legislative reform in this important area of the law. I encourage all members of the British Columbia Bar to offer comment, whether individually or through their professional associations. Please take advantage of the opportunity to voice your vision of the future of civil justice in British Columbia.
This article was published in the June 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.