Negligent Building Owner Liable for Provincial Health Costs

Under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act SBC 2008 c. 27, the government can require anyone who injures someone else to reimburse the Province for the cost of their medical treatment. This does not apply to injuries from a car accident, or in the course of employment.

In British Columbia v. Tekavec, 2017 BCSC 613, Mr. J suffered serious injuries when he leaned on a balcony railing and fell three stories to the ground. Two actions were started in court as a result. Mr. J brought a claim against Mr. Mr. T, the owner/manager of the building for failing to maintain the property contraty to the Occupiers Liability Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 337. The Province of BC also filed a claim against Mr. T to recover $68,081.46 for the victim’s medical treatment under the HCCRA.

In Mr. J’s action against Mr. T, Mr. T was found 100% liable for the Mr. J’s injuries, as he failed to inspect and repair the railing.  However, in Mr. T’s response to the claim of the Province, he pled that he was not 100% responsible. The Province successfully applied to strike that defence on the basis that the trial judge had already determined fault in the other action.

The Province brought an action for summary judgement as the issue of liability had already been determined. The Summary Judgement Rule (9-6) in the Supreme Court Civil Rule serves the purpose of preventing claims or defences, like Mr. T’s, that have no chance of success from proceeding to trial. As Mr. T’s defence that he was not responsible had been struck from the pleadings due to the earlier finding of liability, the Province submitted that there was no defence to the action. Mr. T took the position that because he added the tenants of the building as third parties to the action and their level of responsibility for the accident had not yet been determined, the matter was not appropriate for summary judgement

Madam Justice Murray agreed with the Province because the defence was struck and there were no remaining triable issues regarding liability between the Province and Mr. T. She granted the judgement $68,081.46 in favour of the Province. It is still open to Mr. T to continue his action against the tenants to recover some, or all, of the healthcare costs that they may be responsible for.

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