Canadian Bar Association, BC opposes proposed changes to Evidence Act

THE Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch (CBABC) responded on Tuesday to Attorney General David Eby’s proposed legislative amendments to the Evidence Act. The proposed amendments limit the number of experts and expert reports used in vehicle injury litigation, restrict the amount recoverable from the unsuccessful party for the cost of each expert report, and limit total recoverable disbursements to 5% of the settlement or judgment amount.

CBABC said it supports the introduction of a general limit on the number of experts, subject to agreement of the parties or discretion of the courts. This is in keeping with the principle of proportionality.

However, it opposes the introduction of a $3,000 cap on the amount of an expert’s fee that can be recovered. Similarly, it opposes the proposed 5% cap on what a person can recover for the payments made to put forward their case.

“Expert fees for reports often exceed $3,000 and the cost of gathering evidence to present to court, including expert reports, is usually more than 5% — even in the most straight-forward of claims,” said Ken Armstrong, CBABC President. “Limiting the recovery of these expenses means only people with financial means will be able to present their case fully to a judge. These proposed changes disproportionately limit access to justice for our most marginalized residents.”

Armstrong pointed out: “In an effort to resolve ICBC’s financial problems, the BC government is shifting the financial burden to BC residents and creating an access to justice issue for injured people who cannot afford to present their case with these restrictions in place.”

CBABC instead proposes a schedule of fees limiting the amount experts can charge, subject to the discretion of the courts. Additionally, there is already an assessment procedure in place for courts to determine the necessity and reasonableness of expenses incurred by parties prosecuting their claims. CBABC says an arbitrary cap on disbursements is unwarranted.

CBABC said it welcomes the opportunity to consult with government on meaningful changes that could help address ICBC’s financial problems without restricting the appropriate compensation and supports BC residents deserve.