B.C. will not appeal court ruling that shot down expert limits in ICBC cases
Government to introduce amendments to the Evidence Act instead in the spring
The B.C. government will not appeal a key ruling involving ICBC, instead turning to legislative changes to push through new measures designed to cut down on court costs.
Last February, the province attempted to stem the financial bleeding at the public auto insurer, in part, by introducing caps on the number of expert witnesses testifying in injury lawsuits.
That was immediately challenged by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., and in October, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the changes unconstitutional.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby had 30 days to appeal, and on Wednesday, he announced he would not over fears the matter would get entangled in the higher courts for years to come.
Instead, he said the province could fast track those ICBC reforms by going another route: introducing amendments to the Evidence Act, which will happen in the spring.
The legislative changes will limit the number of expert reports, but also include a window of discretion that will allow judges to decide whether additional experts are needed in some cases.
"We hope to reduce costs for personal injury plaintiffs to help them keep more of their settlements instead of seeing that money go to pay for excessive and expensive adversarial reports," Eby told reporters at the legislature.
$400M hit to B.C.'s bottom line?
The government's decision not to appeal will likely translate into a temporary but significant hit to B.C.'s bottom line.
The measures to cap expert reports was projected to save $400 million — savings that were already baked into the last provincial budget.
"The impact of this decision is potentially the full $400 million coming back onto the books this year. However, our amendments under the Evidence Act could provide some savings going forward that could be deducted from that."
It leaves the province's current razor-thin budget surplus of $179 million in serious jeopardy.
Trial lawyers are also challenging the province's other ICBC reforms of a $5,500 cap on pain and suffering claims for minor injuries and the move to direct disputes under $50,000 to the Civil Resolution Tribunal.
If B.C. loses those court challenges, Eby has said the financial fallout for ICBC would be "catastrophic."
"Those measures alone are responsible for $1 billion in savings at ICBC annually," he said in an interview last month. "It would be a very huge deal if for some reason those reforms were unsuccessful [in the courts]."
ICBC lost $2.5 billion over the past two years, mainly due to rising claims and legal costs.