B.C. Supreme Court Declares Civil Resolution Tribunal Unconstitutional As It Pertains To Motor Vehicle Accidents

On April 1, 2019, legislation was formally enacted by the British Columbia government that would introduce major reforms to the automobile insurance industry. This included a monetary cap of $5,500.00 (now adjusted for inflation) on cases involving “minor” injuries, as well as granting the Civil Resolution Tribunal jurisdiction to decide what is a “minor” injury, and to determine liability and damages for cases of $50,000.00 or less.


Constitutional challenges were subsequently launched by the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia.


In recently released Reasons for Judgment in Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General), the issue for the Court to consider was whether the grant of jurisdiction over certain motor vehicle accident claims to the Civil Resolution Tribunal offends section 96 of the Constitution Act, 1867.


In declaring certain sections of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act to be unconstitutional, namely the section giving the tribunal jurisdiction to determine whether a injury is minor for the purposes of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, and the section granting the tribunal jurisdiction to decide liability and damages for cases $50,000.00 or less, Supreme Court Chief Justice Hinkson commented :


[410]   The plaintiffs have conceded that subsection (a) of s. 133(1) of the CRTA is not, in isolation, unconstitutional. In my view, this subsection is severable. Likewise, the CRT’s jurisdiction to determine liability and damages for motor vehicle claims under $50,000 under subsection (c) is severable from its jurisdiction to determine whether an injury is a minor injury for the purposes of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act under subsection (b).


[413]   The Attorney General submits that at the present there is no disability on the part of the Supreme Court of British Columbia from hearing claims that arise from MVAs. In the result, the ability of both claimants and defendants in such cases to have their disputes resolved will not be impaired if the impugned sections of the legislation are struck down.


[414]   I will therefore accede to the plaintiffs’ request, in part, and grant an order declaring that ss. 133(1) (b) and (c) of the CRTA are unconstitutional and of no force or effect. I also declare that s. 16.1 is unconstitutional and should be read down insofar as it applies to accident claims, except for determination of accident benefits under s. 133(1)(a). I decline to grant any order with respect to the Accident Regulations associated therewith.


Chief Justice Hinkson also rejected unfounded government allegations that motor vehicle accident injury cases were consistently clogging up the court system, noting that between 2015 and 2019 fewer than one percent of such claims actually proceeded to trial.


Barring an appeal, accident victims will now once again be able to pursue their rightful remedies through the courts up to the point in time that the government introduces “no fault” legislation on May 1, 2021, where accident victims will receive no compensation for pain and suffering. Constitutional challenges are expected for this legislation as well.

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