Lawyer wins review of Nova Scotia’s one-year limit for fatal injury lawsuits

Nova Scotia’s justice minister says the province is reviewing its one-year time limit for wrongful death lawsuits, after a Halifax lawyer argued it lacks compassion for grieving families.

Mark Furey said he directed his department’s legal team to look into the Fatal Injuries Act’s limitation period following a plea from Halifax lawyer Ray Wagner.

Furey conceded “maybe a year is not long enough.”

“We’ll do a jurisdictional scan, we’ll look at the circumstances … (Wagner) has identified those timelines that first and foremost allow the family to grieve and put that burden on them to initiate a legal process,” Furey said following a cabinet meeting Thursday.

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Wagner wrote to Furey last week, saying families are forced to start litigation as they grieve, make funeral arrangements, deal with estate issues and adjust to daily life without their loved one.

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On Friday, Wagner welcomed news that the province was considering his long-standing concerns.

“It’s an important issue for people going through these circumstances,” said Wagner in an interview. “I think when they look at it, they’ll see the wisdom to make the change.”

He said his firm has not been able to identify any reason why the limitation period should not be increased to two years.

“In other words, there’s no compelling reason it should be kept at one year. There’s nothing on the down side,” said Wagner.

“On the up side, this is a compassionate way to deal with these very unfortunate circumstances that people and families unfortunately find themselves in.”

Wagner noted Nova Scotia and Yukon are the only two places in Canada that do not have a two-year limitation period in their Fatal Injuries Act.

He added that the limitation period does not conform with province’s own Limitations Act, which sets out a two-year period.

Furey said he expects he’ll have more information from his legal team sometime in the next few weeks.

Wagner said a recent case accentuated the issue of the Fatal Injuries Act’s limitation period.

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He represents the son of Bernice Bond, 90, who had a prescription filled at Canso Pharmacy Ltd. on May 3, 2016, and died June 16, 2016, from what a medical examiner described as an acute overdose of medication.

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Carlton Bond filed a statement of claim in Nova Scotia Supreme Court against the pharmacist and an unnamed pharmacy assistant on June 15, 2017 – just before the cutoff under the Fatal Injuries Act – alleging Bond was given an excessive amount of her prescription in error.

Wagner said the family did not receive the medical examiner’s report until six months after her death, which meant they only had six months to find a lawyer, obtain medical documents and file a claim.

“In these circumstances, the time was even more limited,” said Wagner, saying the Bond family was willing to speak out against the limitation period.

“This really gave us an opportunity to focus on how it impacts a family.”

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