Court cannot help self-represented litigants who miss limitation periods

When dealing with ICBC, it is important to remember that its procedures are governed by a large body of statutes and regulations. Several of those procedures have deadlines. Unless the statute or regulation provides otherwise, these deadlines cannot be waived by the court. Too many self-represented litigants do not realize this fact. A typical scenario is set out in a 2008 decision of the Supreme Court: 476605 B.C. Ltd. v. ICBC, 2008 BCSC 777. In that case, the plaintiff’s truck was severely damaged in an accident. ICBC chose to write off the truck and paid $18,000 to the plaintiff. The plaintiff disagreed with ICBC’s valuation of the truck, and commenced an action for recovery of “fair replacement cost” of the truck. The plaintiff argued that the truck was insured for $40,000, that it had a new engine installed, and that it had two extra-large gas tanks installed, prior to the accident. The plaintiff said that these additions to the vehicle should have been taken into account when ICBC assessed the value of the vehicle.

ICBC and Limitation Periods

The plaintiff did his own research and identified s. 117 of the Revised Regulation (1984) under the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act, which requires ICBC to pay fair value or the actual cash value of the vehicle and its equipment. However, he either missed or did not fully understand s. 142 of the same regulation, which sets up mandatory arbitration. The time-limit for that arbitration was two years, but by the time the plaintiff prepared and filed all the necessary materials for a court hearing, that limitation period had lapsed. As a result, the court was forced to dismiss his claim. Master Young was clearly sympathetic to the Plaintiff, but had to obey the wording of the Regulation:

[25] I, therefore, have no choice but to conclude that I do not have jurisdiction to deal with a coverage claim. The plaintiff was required to proceed under s. 142 of the Revised Regulation (1984) under the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act and to use the arbitration mechanism set up in the Act.

[26] There is a two-year limitation period and he is now statute barred.

[27] I do not have jurisdiction to extend that deadline, but I wish I did. If I had authority to grant relief from forfeiture, I would have exercised it.

To add insult to injury, the Master implied that the Plaintiff could very well have succeeded had he followed the necessary procedures:

[32] On the merits of his case, I see nothing in any of the material filed by ICBC to indicate that it gave any consideration to the fact that the vehicle had a new engine.

[34] There is no reference to the examiner or estimator considering the age of the engine.

[35] I am not convinced that any consideration was given to the engine. …

[36] My hands are tied. I can say what I would do if I had the authority to do it, but I do not have the authority. The plaintiff’s claim in this court is dismissed

(written by Troy McLelan, regulation reader)

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