Limitations Act Changes Consistent
With APEGGA Recommendations

Calgary-Egmont MLA Denis Herard, who led efforts to develop new limitations legislation - "The Limitations Act" balances the interests of both sides by providing a fair and reasonable period in which civil claims must be initiated.

roclamation on Sept. 16 of a new Alberta Limitations Act and implementation of the legislation on March 1, 1999, should alleviate concerns voiced by APEGGA and others about Alberta’s old limitations law.

Under legislation on the books now, APEGGA members, architects and some other practitioners faced the possibility of having legal liability for errors or omissions follow them to the grave, and even beyond.

Under the new act, the basic limitation period is now two years from the date that the necessary basis of a claim was discovered. The act allows for a total maximum time of 10 years to discover the injury and make a claim. Under the Alberta’s limitations law as it has existed, there have been fairly narrow time limitations for filing claims based on medical malpractice, but other professionals, such as APEGGA members, faced the possibility of legal action being initiated years after completion of a project.

The new Limitations Act was first introduced by Denis Herard, MLA Calgary-Egmont, as a private members bill and received royal assent on May 1, 1996. Proclamation was deferred to provide time for input to the legislation from affected parties.

"The Limitations Act balances the interests of both sides by providing a fair and reasonable period in which civil claims must be initiated," said Mr. Herard. "The new Act is also easier to understand and apply."

Alberta Minister of Justice Jon Havelock stated: "The new act consolidates the previous legislation, which had over 60 different sections, into only 20 sections, and ensures that the time limitations for initiating claims are consistent."

Under the previous legislation, depending on the nature of the claim, many different periods of time could elapse before a claim had to be made. Much of the substance of the new act reflects recommendations from the Alberta Law Reform Institute.

The 10-year limit is in line with a request submitted by APEGGA to the Alberta attorney-general in 1993. The APEGGA recommendation was based on work by a Professional Liability Subcommittee of APEGGA’s Practice Standards Committee.

The APEGGA submission maintained that it was unfair and unreasonable for members of the Association to be exposed to an indefinite period of liability. The APEGGA recommendation went on to call for an "ultimate" period and suggested 10 years as consistent with other provinces active on this issue, notably Ontario and British Columbia.

"Implementation on March 1, 1999, will give those who are affected time to inform and train their staff and association members, as well as to put in place the necessary administrative changes," said Mr. Havelock. "The next few months will enable these parties to be fully prepared."

The new act provides for some exceptions.

Exceptions to the basic and ultimate limitation periods are: