Ontario: there’s no limitation period for an application for a declaration of a codicil’s validity


In Piekut v. Romoli, the applicant sought a declaration as to whether codicils were valid. The respondent moved to dismiss the application as statute-barred. The court denied the motion on the basis that no limitation period applied pursuant to s. 16(1)(a), which prescribes no limitation period for a proceeding for a declaration if no consequential relief is sought.    The applicant was not seeking consequential relief:

[50]           I find that Helen’s question with respect to the validity of the codicils is restricted to declaratory relief. She is not seeking consequential relief. She is not asking the court to determine the ultimate beneficiary of Dundas St. properties or to vest the properties in any particular beneficiary or beneficiaries.

This is the correct outcome by the wrong reasoning.  No limitation period applied to the proceeding because it didn’t pursue a “claim”.  The Limitations Act applies to “claims” pursued in court proceeding (s. 2).  If there’s no “claim”, there’s no limitation period.  “Claims” derive from causes of action.  If there’s no cause of action, there’s no “claim”.

There’s no cause of action asserted in an application for a declaration regarding the validity of a codicil (or a will).  Accordingly, the applicants were not pursuing a “claim” in a court proceeding, and no limitation period applied to it.

Update! The Court of Appeal upheld this decision.