17 Aug Limitation Period in Slip and Fall Cases

If you are injured in a slip and fall, you have two years to file a court action.  If you do not do this within the two-year limitation period, you will be barred from making a claim against the owner of the property.

In the case of Trombley v. Pannu, 2016 BCCA 324, Mr. Trombley was seriously injured in an accident when he tripped and fell on the outside stairs leading down to the sidewalk in front of the premises that he and his mother rented. Nine months after the fall, Mr. Trombley hired a lawyer who began communications with the landlord’s insurance company.

The landlord’s insurance company did not acknowledge liability and all communications from them were on a “without prejudice” basis.  After seven months of investigating the claim, the landlord’s insurance adjuster wrote a letter to Mr. Trombley that invited settlement discussions, in view of the approaching two-year limitation period for commencing a claim. Those discussions did not take place and Mr. Trombley filed his Notice of Civil Claim three weeks after the two-year limitation period expired.

At trial, the issue was whether the adjuster’s letter amounted to an acknowledgement of some liability, thus confirming the cause of action and extending the limitation period.  The Judge dismissed Mr. Trombley’s action as statute barred, finding that the letter did not acknowledge some liability because it was marked “without prejudice” and the purpose of the letter was to simply move the claim forward in view of the approaching two-year limitation period.  Mr. Trombley appealed this decision.

The Court of Appeal noted that to succeed Mr. Trombley had to prove: (1) that the party acknowledged the cause of action; or (2) that there was a payment made in respect of the cause of action. Simple acknowledgement of the “existence” of a cause of action was insufficient.  Acknowledgment had to involve acknowledgment of some liability.

The Court of Appeal held that it was open to the Judge at trial to find the adjuster’s request for settlement demands did not reflect an intention to acknowledge any liability for the claim.  The request occurred in the context of an ongoing investigation and assessment of the claim where (1) liability was not admitted, (2) notice was given to Mr. Trombley of the approaching two-year limitation period, and (3) the “without prejudice” letter was the last of several “without prejudice” communications during this period.  The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr. Trombley’s appeal.

As you can see, missing a limitation date can have serious consequences for the injured person.  If you have been injured in a slip and fall, contact Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota.  We will ensure that your rights are protected.