Canadian Consulting Engineer

News

Engineers in B.C. aiming for less liability

Engineers in B.C. are hoping a private members bill recently introduced into the B.C. legislature will be quickly passed.


Engineers in B.C. are hoping a private members bill recently introduced into the B.C. legislature will be quickly passed.

On June 2, Ralph Sultan, an engineer and MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, introduced the bill to reduce the ultimate limitation period for professionals from 30 years to 10 years. The bill would affect professional engineers and geoscientists, as well as architects, dentists and accountants.

The ultimate limitation period dictates the window of time in which a professional can be sued for making an error or omission in their work. Currently the period is 30 years in B.C. Reducing it to 10 years would bring B.C. closer in line with Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, where the limitation period for civil liability is now 10 or 15 years.

New Brunswick’s legislature has a new Limitation of Actions Act which recently came into force that limits the liability period for engineers and geoscientists to the earlier of two years after the discovery of the damage, or 15 years from the date of the erroneous act or omission.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) is applauding Sultan’s bill. In a press release the association outlined the reasons why. For example, it says that as time passes it becomes increasingly difficult to track where and how the mistakes are made. The release reads: “Over a period of 30 years, changes in professional standards, development of new technologies and the evolution of social values make fair assessment of a professional’s conduct at the time of the error difficult. It also complicates the administration of justice, as evidence needed to prove or disprove a claim can deteriorate, written records can become lost or destroyed, and the memories of witnesses either fade or the witnesses themselves are no longer available.”

The president of APEGBC, Frank Denton, P.Eng., said: “This has been an issue for our Association and our members for many years. With the 30-year ultimate limitation period, engineers and geoscientists could currently face civil litigation for work undertaken as far back as 1981. Many of those professionals are long retired or dead. Such a lengthy limitation does not benefit either potential claimants or defendants.”

The B.C. bill will have to go through second and third readings and a committee before it becomes law.