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B.C. engineers push to reduce ultimate liability period

Engineers in B.C. will have a load of worry lifted off their shoulders if the professional associations in the prov...


Engineers in B.C. will have a load of worry lifted off their shoulders if the professional associations in the province succeed in persuading the government to change the ultimate limitation period. The period is the time in which a consulting engineer can be sued for damages resulting from a problem in a building or other project they designed.
Consulting Engineers of B.C., the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C., together with the associations representing architects and chartered accountants, have drawn up a position paper to present to the province’s Attorney General. The professional groups want the ultimate limitation period reduced from 30 years to 10 years. Ontario and Saskatchewan have reduced their equivalent period to 15 years.
A 10-year ultimate limitation period would bring B.C. into line with Alberta, helping to promote intermobility for professionals between the two provinces. The removal of barriers to the movement of labour between Alberta and B.C. is the goal of their TILMA agreement, which became effective on April 1.
The B.C. associations argue that a 30 year ultimate limitation period is unfair and does not take into account factors such as that witness’s memories fade over decades and documents become lost. The paper also points out that currently professionals have to carry expensive liability insurance well into their retirement just in case a lawsuit over a past project should arise.
The professional associations also want any new legislation to clearly spell out what triggers the ultimate limitation period. They argue that it should begin running from the time the wrongful act was actually done, not from the time a problem is discovered. In the case of construction, that would mean the period would begin from when the project is substantially complete. They are hoping that legislation to reduce the period to 10 years will be introduced into the provincial legislature by the spring of 2008.
The position paper is available at www.cebc.org/library/policies.html
Derek Doyle, P.Eng., executive director and registrar of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C., says that engineers in both Alberta and B.C. are also looking at harmonizing the rules in another area of difference — continuing education. The whole goal is to make it easier for engineers in the two provinces to work in the different jurisdictions. Doyle says that already it takes only five days for 95% of engineers from across Canada to get approval to work in B.C.
He does not see any barriers between interprovincial mobility arising from the recent big change in Alberta, where APEGGA, the engineers’ licensing body is to join forces with the technologists’ association. Doyle says that APEGBC already has a limited class licence for technologists that allows them to work unsupervised. About 30 people currently hold that licence, and they are mainly in the area of terrain stability.