A key factor to consider before initiating a civil claim in an Ontario court is whether the limitation period for the claim may have expired. Limitation periods are governed by the provincial Limitations Act, 2002 (the “Act”), which came into force in 2004. The Act attempts to bring consistency to limitation periods for all civil claims in the province, however certain exceptions and other factors do still allow for a degree of uncertainty. For the purposes of the Act, a “claim” is defined as “a claim to remedy an injury, loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act or omission”.
The Basic Limitation Period
In Ontario, the basic limitation period for a civil claim is two years from the time the damage or loss was discovered by the plaintiff. However, determining the date the period begins to run is not as simple as it sounds. The day a claim is discovered is the earliest of the following occurrences:
(a) the day on which the person with the claim first knew,
(i) that the injury, loss or damage had occurred,
(ii) that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission,
(iii) that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is made, and
(iv) that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy it; and
(b) the day on which a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the person with the claim first ought to have known of the matters referred to in clause (a).
It is not enough to simply say that two years have passed since the act or omission that caused the loss or injury occurred. It must be two years from the date that the injured party became aware of the loss, the act or omission that caused it, and the person or entity responsible. The court also has the discretion to find that a reasonable person would have become aware sooner, given the same circumstances. If this is the case, the court will find that the two-year limitation period began to run on the date a reasonable person would have known.
The Ultimate Limitation Period
Considering the fact that the clock does not begin to run on the basic limitation period until the basis of the claim is discovered, this could leave defendants vulnerable to litigation indefinitely in some cases. In order to provide some certainty in this area, the Act also includes a provision establishing an ultimate limitation period of 15 years from the date that the act or omission occurred, after which period a claimant is barred from bringing an action in court. Discoverability is not a factor for this period – the clock begins to run at the time of the act or omission responsible for the loss or injury.
Exceptions to the Limitation Period
There are a few exceptions to the Ontario civil limitation periods. Specifically, limitation periods can be extended in cases where:
- The claimant in an action is under the age of majority at the time of the act or omission, or when it is discovered; and
- When the claim is against a municipality in Ontario or against the provincial government.
If you believe that you have a claim against another party, it’s important to speak to a knowledgable lawyer as soon as possible, in order to protect your right to bring an action within the time periods established under the Act.
At Baker & Company, we take the time to meet with you and understand your unique needs in order to offer solutions to the diverse problems you are facing. We rely on our broad base of experience and expertise to provide you with exceptional legal guidance in any litigation matter. Call us at 416-777-0100 or contact us online for a consultation.