A lawyer behind a $ 900 million class action lawsuit against ICBC and the British Columbia government has accused the province of legislating the courts to end a potentially costly case.
Scott Stanley filed a class action lawsuit last year alleging that successive provincial governments have clandestinely and illegally used ICBC funds – between $ 16 million and $ 60 million a year – since 1973 to fund the public plan for medical services for doctor visits to reimburse victims of car accidents.
He claims this has resulted in poor medical care for accident victims who have not received the full benefits they are entitled to and high premiums for ICBC-insured drivers who have essentially paid accident victim medical expenses twice: once through their tax contributions to MSP and again through their ICBC rewards.
None of his allegations have been proven in court. The certification hearings for the as-yet-certified class action lawsuit began on Monday.
Brayden Methot is the lead accident victim plaintiff in the proposed class action lawsuit. Methot became quadriplegic after being in a car accident in 2014. He says his insurance agreement with ICBC was too low – and accuses the ICBC system of sending money to the British Columbia government to reimburse the Medical Services Plan. (Brad Methot / submitted)
On April 15, Stanley received a letter from Attorney General David Eby outlining the government’s plans to introduce laws that “contain provisions that are expressly retroactive and provide clear legal authority for reimbursement.”
A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety in charge of ICBC confirmed the legislation from CBC News.
Stanley said it was an attempt to kill the lawsuit.
“I think people can draw their own conclusions and wonder why the attorney general is trying to meddle in a lawsuit in court unless he thinks the province is going to lose.” Said Stanley.
“This could certainly be interpreted as a cover-up by the NDP.”
The government says the reimbursement is “fair and equitable”.
The lawsuit is for an estimated $ 899,724,536 plus damages and interest. If successful, Stanley said, it could mean every driver insured in the province and every injured BC accident victim is entitled to a share of nearly $ 1 billion.
Stanley said the reimbursement allowed the province to artificially keep health care costs low and avoid the unpopular act of increasing taxes.
At the same time, the reimbursement has contributed to rising premiums for driver insurance and lower payouts for accidents for accident victims. He believes this is part of the reason ICBC faced financial problems.
BC Attorney General David Eby described the financial situation at ICBC as a “dumpster fire”, placing the blame on the former BC Liberal government. (Tanya Fletcher / CBC)
Eby stated in his letter to Stanley The provincial government believes that the ICBC reimbursement scheme is “fair and equitable to British Columbians”.
“Without reimbursement, paying these costs for health services related to the risks associated with driving would otherwise be a burden for all taxpayers in British Columbia,” the letter said.
Since forming a government in 2017, the NDP has been deeply critical of the BC Liberals for their administration of the ICBC. Eby’s letter states that the repayment arrangement was last changed in 1994 – when his NDP was in power.
Two lawyers unrelated to the case said the threat posed by the legislation was worrying.
Personal injury attorney Richard Parsons, a board member of the Trial Lawyers’ Association of BC, called it an unusual, “draconian” practice.
“Instead of recognizing this problem and trying to fix it, they are just writing new law to protect themselves,” Parsons said. “That’s a problem.”
Longtime injury attorney Don Renaud agreed.
“They don’t pass legislation retrospectively to make something that was previously illegal legal,” said Renaud. “At least I hope not.”
Much of the NDP government’s efforts to cut ICBC’s bloated legal costs have been criticized and challenged by the Trial Lawyers’ Association and individual lawyers.
Stanley said he plans to continue pushing for class action certification whether or not the legislation is introduced or passed.
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