Ontario: Court of Appeal on adding a party after the presumptive expiry of the limitation period

The Court of Appeal decision in Morrison v. Barzo sets out in detail the test for adding a party to a proceeding after the presumptive expiry of the limitation period.  It’s now the leading decision on the subject.

To obtain leave, the plaintiff must first rebut the presumption in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act by leading evidence as to the date of subjective discovery.  The plaintiff doesn’t need to show evidence of due diligence; due diligence is immaterial to subjective discovery:

[31]      The evidentiary burden on a plaintiff seeking to add a defendant to an action after the apparent expiry of a limitation period is two-fold. First, the plaintiff must overcome the presumption in s. 5(2) that he or she knew of the matters referred to in s. 5(1)(a) on the day the act or omission on which the claim is based took place, by leading evidence as to the date the claim was actually discovered (which evidence can be tested and contradicted by the proposed defendant). The presumption is displaced by the court’s finding as to when the plaintiff subjectively knew he had a claim against the defendants: Mancinelli, at para. 18. To overcome the presumption, the plaintiff needs to prove only that the actual discovery of the claim was not on the date the events giving rise to the claim took place. It is therefore wrong to say that a plaintiff has an onus to show due diligence to rebut the presumption under s. 5(2): Fennell, at para. 26.

Second, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie discovery argument by leading evidence as to why the claim couldn’t have been discovered through reasonable diligence:

[32]      Second, the plaintiff must offer a “reasonable explanation on proper evidence” as to why the claim could not have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable diligence. The evidentiary threshold here is low, and the plaintiff’s explanation should be given a “generous reading”, and considered in the context of the claim: Mancinelli, at paras. 20 and 24.

This is not a due diligence analysis.  While a plaintiff’s due diligence is relevant to the finding under s. 5(1)(b), the absence of due diligence is a not a separate basis for dismissing a claim as statute-barred.  This is so whether the expiry of the limitation period is at issue in a motion for summary judgment or in a motion to add a defendant.

When a claimant ought reasonably to have discovered a claim requires an evidentiary foundation.  The court can’t say merely that the claim was discoverable before the expiry of the limitation period without explaining why.  It may be that the court can only determine when discovery ought to have occurred at a later stage of the proceeding.  In such a case, the motion to add the defendant should be granted, with leave for the defendant to plead a limitation defence:

[30]      Reasonable discoverability of a claim under s. 5(1)(b) that precludes adding a party contrary to s. 21(1) requires an evidentiary foundation. The court must be satisfied that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s circumstances ought to have discovered the claim, and the date of such reasonable discovery must be determined. It is not sufficient for the court to say that the claim was discoverable “before the expiry of the limitation period”, without explaining why. It may be that the date of reasonable discoverability can only be determined at a later stage in the proceedings, at trial or on a summary judgment motion. In such a case, the motion to add the defendant should be granted, with leave for the defendant to plead a limitation defence: Mancinelli, at paras. 31 and 34.

Conceptually, I recognise the distinction between the court assessing the plaintiff’s due diligence in investigating the claim against the proposed defendant, and the court assessing whether the plaintiff could through reasonable diligence have discovered the claim against that defendant.  However, in practice, I suspect this is a distinction without a difference.  In both cases, the plaintiff will lead evidence of the steps taken to investigate the claim—due diligence—and argue that she did what was reasonable to investigate the claim and still didn’t discover it.  The proposed defendant will lead evidence of some other step the plaintiff could have taken and argue that it was a reasonable step and would have led to discovery.  And so the adequacy of due diligence is always in issue.

The Court also make important points about the findings that are necessary in a limitations analysis.  The court must identify the claims in question, and then find when they were discovered.  This requires a specific finding of fact that answers the question asked by s. 5(1)(b):

[60]      Instead, the motion judge was required, after clearly defining the nature of the claims against the respondents on the evidence, and after finding no actual knowledge of the claims, to make a specific finding of fact as to when a reasonable person “with the abilities and in the circumstances” of the appellants “first ought to have known of the matters referred to in clause (a)”.

Ontario: summary judgment on a partial limitations defence denied

In Lyall v. Whitehead the court denied summary judgment on a limitations defence because it would only partially dispose of the action. The limitations defence was not readily bifurcated from the merits.  This gave rise to the potential for duplicative results and credibility issues:

[13]           In an attempt to persuade me that partial summary judgment is appropriate the defendant relies upon the decision of Justice Myers in Mason v. Perras Mogenais2018 ONSC 1477 (CanLII) (“Mason”). Justice Myers held that discrete issues, like limitation periods, which do not overlap with the merits that are left for trial, are suitable for partial summary judgment motions. I do not read Mason to stand for the proposition that partial summary judgment motions are appropriate in each and every case that involves a limitation period issue. In Mason, partial summary judgment was granted in circumstances where the case was brought to an early end, in totality, against one of the defendants. In my view, that situation is more akin to a summary judgment motion than a partial summary judgment motion since the action was brought to an end against that defendant. That is certainly not the case here. As discussed below, the clear potential for duplicative results and major credibility issues in this case are outside the realm of what Justice Myers considered appropriate in Mason.

[14]           I agree with the plaintiffs that, whether the action succeeds or not, the dominant narrative of the broader underlying claim concerns the defendant’s conduct as Estate trustee and whether he breached his fiduciary duties to the plaintiffs. Even if the partial summary judgment motion was successful, the matter would move on to trial with several other significant issues and claims in play which raises the legitimate specter of inconsistent decisions. The facts underpinning the allegations the defendant seeks to dismiss are too deeply intertwined with the facts underpinning the remaining causes of action. It is not appropriate to grant summary judgment in this type of situation.

[15]           This case falls entirely within the ambit of cases discussed in Baywood and Butera. In this regard I am mindful of the reasoning in Butera, which makes it clear that a motion for partial summary judgment should be considered a rare procedure that is reserved for an issue or issues that may be readily bifurcated from those in the main action and may be dealt with expeditiously and in a cost effective matter. As stated in Butera, such an approach is entirely consistent with the objectives set out by the Supreme Court in Hryniak v. Mauldin2014 SCC 7 (CanLII). I entirely agree, and in any event, the decision is binding upon me.

[…]

[19]           In my view, this is exact type of case warned against by the Court of Appeal in Baywood. In this case, credibility is extremely important. As stated in Baywood, voluminous affidavit evidence can obscure the affiant’s authentic voice. That has happened here. I received the evidence in a decontextualized manner and to make any findings on credibility in this fashion would result in fundamental unfairness in a way it will not likely occur at trial where the trial judge will see all of the evidence. Put another way, I cannot make credibility findings on the issues before me without also impacting the trial judge’s ability to independently assess the facts at trial. The trial judge’s credibility findings will be based on a set of facts broader than mine, but will also inherently include those that the defendant has put before me. They are not readily bifurcated from the broader underlying claim.

Ontario: The finality of motions to add defendants

The Court of Appeal in Prescott & Russell (United Counties) v. David S. Laflamme clarifies some interesting aspects of motions for to add a defendant after the presumptive expiry of the limitation period.

The motion judge held that the plaintiff could add the proposed defendant “as a party to the litigation since its actions to do so were within the limitation period” (presumably meaning that the plaintiff moved to add the proposed defendant within the limitation period).  Like me, you might think this was a finding of timeliness precluding a limitations defence.  Not so, held the Court of Appeal.  The Order was without any language declaring the timeliness of the claims against the proposed defendant, and, notwithstanding the foregoing, the reasons were apparently without any language suggesting that the motion judge made a final determination regarding the limitations defence.

Because the Order did not preclude a limitations defence, it was not a final determination of the proposed defendant’s rights and therefore interlocutory.

These are the relevant paragraphs:

[7]         The distinction between a final and interlocutory order for the purposes of determining the appropriate appellate forum is not always easy to make: see Salewski v. Lalonde2017 ONCA 515 (CanLII)Azzeh v. Legendre2017 ONCA 385 (CanLII).  In the present context, the order will be said to be final if it deprives WSP of a substantive defence.  If WSP can no longer rely on the Limitations Act defence, the order is final.  However, if WSP can raise the Limitations Act defence at trial, the order is not final. To determine whether the order is final or interlocutory, one must examine the terms of the order, the motion judge’s reasons for the order, the nature of the proceedings giving rise to the order, and other contextual factors that may inform the nature of the order.

[8]         Looking first at the order itself, there is nothing in the language to suggest that any final determination was made on theLimitations Act issue.  The order, presumably drawn with the cooperation of counsel, makes no reference to the Limitations Act or any findings made in respect of that Act. The order simply allows the respondent to add WSP as a defendant.

[9]         The motion judge’s reasons contain no language suggesting that any finding made in respect of the application of the Limitations Act had application beyond the motion itself.  The motion judge did not purport to decide the issue for any purpose other than the determination of the motion to add WSP as a party.

[10]      The nature of the motion is also relevant to the nature of the order arising from the motion. Some motions tend to generate final orders. For example, orders made on r. 21 motions brought to determine a question of law, will generally apply to the litigation as a whole. Depending on the question of law decided, the order may well be final. Motions to add parties that are successful, however, do not as a rule generate findings that are binding in the rest of the litigation.

[11]      We also cannot accept the contention that because the motion judge was required to make a finding as to the application of the Limitations Act, her finding must be regarded as binding in the litigation and therefore final.  Section 21 of the Limitations Actforbids adding a party where the limitation period has expired. It does not foreclose adding a party absent an affirmative finding that the limitation period has not expired.

[12]      Having regard to the factors outlined above, we conclude that the trial judge’s determination that the action was brought within the limitation period was made for the purposes of the motion only. The motion judge was satisfied that, for the purposes of determining whether to add WSP as a party, the limitation period had not expired.

[13]      The order under appeal is interlocutory.  This court has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.  WSP may, if so advised, seek leave to appeal in the Divisional Court, or it may raise the limitations argument at trial.

I confess that I’m not entirely persuaded by the Court’s reasoning.  It’s settled law (or at least was settled until this decision) that on a motion for leave to add a defendant, the court can determine the timeliness of the claim.  That is, the court can find that the plaintiff has established that it discovered its claim against the proposed defendant within the limitation period.  The court would then make the order denying the proposed defendant leave to plead a limitations defence.

I wonder whether the issue here was nothing more than the plaintiff neglecting to insist on such language in the order given the motion judge’s finding that the plaintiff brought the motion in time.

Lastly, I indulge some pedantry in regards of legal sloppiness:

[3]         On the motion, the respondent contended that its claim against WSP was not reasonably discoverable until a date within the two year limitation period.  WSP contended that the respondent had ample information upon which to base its claim years earlier.  The motion judge accepted the respondent’s position, concluding, at para. 38:

Consequently, I find that the United Counties [respondent] can add WSP as a party to the litigation since its actions to do so were within the limitation period.

[4]         WSP appeals claiming that the motion judge erred in concluding that the claim could not reasonably have been discovered at a point beyond the applicable time limit under the Act.  The respondent argues that the motion judge was correct in her analysis of the Limitations Act provisions.  The respondent also raises a preliminary jurisdictional point.  Counsel argues that the order under appeal is interlocutory and not final, meaning that any appeal lies with leave to the Divisional Court.

[5]         The respondent acknowledges that if the order is not final, the respondent cannot claim that the order is binding on the trial judge, meaning that WSP can re-litigate the limitation issue at trial.  Counsel has raised the issue, however, because in his submission, the jurisprudence from this court dictates that the order is interlocutory and cannot be appealed to this court.

A claim is not discoverable within a limitation period.  Pursuant to s. 4 of the Limitations Act, it is the discovery of a claim that causes the limitation period to run.

The proper question on these motions is whether the plaintiff discovered the claim within two years of the motion.  This isn’t because the limitation period runs retrospectively two years from the date of the motion.  Rather, it’s because discovery of the claim any earlier than two years from the motion means the limitation period commenced earlier than two years from the motion, and therefore expired before the motion.

Ontario: the evidentiary threshold for adding a defendant after the limitation period’s presumptive expiry

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Mancinelli v. Royal Bank of Canada is now a leading decision on the addition of a defendant to proceeding after the presumptive expiry of the limitation period.  The Court set out the test, and held that it applies equally to limitations periods that are not subject to the discovery provisions in the Limitation Act:

[23]      When a person opposes a plaintiff’s motion to add it as a defendant on the basis of the apparent expiry of a limitation period, the motion judge is entitled to assess the record to determine whether, as a question of fact, there is a reasonable explanation on proper evidence as to why the plaintiff could not have discovered its claim through the exercise of reasonable diligence. If the plaintiff does not raise any credibility issue or issue of fact about when its claim was discovered that would merit consideration on a summary judgment motion or a trial and there is no reasonable explanation on the evidence as to why the plaintiff could not have discovered the claim by exercising reasonable diligence, the motion judge may deny the plaintiff’s motion: Arcari v. Dawson2016 ONCA 715 (CanLII)134 O.R. (3d) 36, at para. 10. 

[24]      However, the evidentiary threshold that must be met by a plaintiff on such a motion is low: Pepper v. Zellers Inc. (2006), 2006 CanLII 42355 (ON CA)83 O.R. (3d) 648 (C.A.), at para. 14Burtch v. Barnes Estate (2006), 2006 CanLII 12955 (ON CA)80 O.R. (3d) 365, at paras. 26-27. The plaintiff’s explanation should be given a “generous reading”: Wakelin v. Gourley (2005), 2005 CanLII 23123 (ON SC)76 O.R. (3d) 272, at para.15, aff’d 2006 CarswellOnt 286 (Div. Ct.). Whether the plaintiff and its counsel acted with reasonable diligence must be considered in context: Fanshawe College of Applied Arts and Technology v. Sony Optiarc Inc.2014 ONSC 2856, at para. 45 (the “Fanshawe Pleadings Motion”.)

[25]      While ArcariPepper and Wakelin dealt with motions to add defendants that were opposed based on the apparent expiry of the limitation period under the Act, the same approach, and the same low threshold, is warranted where the motion is opposed or also opposed based on the apparent expiry of any statutory limitation period subject to the discoverability principle: see, for example, Fanshawe Pleadings Motion.

[…]

[30]      A plaintiff’s failure to take reasonable steps to investigate a claim is not a stand-alone or independent ground to find a claim out of time. Instead, the reasonable steps a plaintiff ought to take is a relevant consideration in deciding when a claim is discoverable under s. 5(1)(b): Galota v. Festival Hall Developments Ltd.2016 ONCA 585 (CanLII), 133 O.R. (3d) (C.A.), at para. 23; Fennel v. Deol2016 ONCA 249 (CanLII)265 A.C.W.S. (3d) 1029, at paras. 18, 24.

[31]      Where the issue on a motion to add a defendant is due diligence, the motion judge will not be in a position to dismiss the plaintiff’s motion in the absence of evidence that the plaintiff could have obtained the requisite information with due diligence, and by when the plaintiff could have obtained such information, such that there is no issue of credibility or fact warranting a trial or summary judgment motion: Wong v. Adler (2004), 2004 CanLII 8228 (ON SC)70 O.R. (3d) 460 (Ont Master), at para. 45Pepper, at para. 18.

The Court overturned the motion judge’s decision (which I noted for its summary of the relevant principles) for applying too high a standard to high an evidentiary threshold.

[26]      In the context of a motion to add defendants in a class action alleging a secret conspiracy brought before any statements of defence had been filed or any discoveries had taken place, the motion judge required the appellants to meet too high an evidentiary threshold.

[27]      Giving the requisite generous, contextual reading to the appellants’ explanation, the appellants provided a reasonable explanation why they could not have identified the respondents as co-conspirators before July 20, 2014. I note that in the Fanshawe Pleadings Motion, the motion judge permitted plaintiffs alleging a price-fixing conspiracy to amend their statement of claim to add defendants on evidence as to due diligence that essentially consisted of reviewing publically available documents, albeit a more detailed list of those documents was provided.

[28]      In the face of the appellant’s evidence of their search for other potential defendants, the respondents led no evidence of further reasonable steps that the appellants could have taken to ascertain their identities before July 20, 2014. Rather, the motion judge suggested that the appellants should have taken further steps to investigate whether the respondents were co-conspirators. At least some of the steps he suggested go beyond those a reasonable plaintiff would have taken in the circumstances, indicating that he held the appellants to too high an evidentiary standard. By way of example, it is not apparent how a plaintiff alleging a conspiracy that the defendants took active steps to conceal and that was conducted through secret “chats” could have possibly obtained the suggested Anton Pillar and Norwich orders. The evidentiary foundation required to obtain such orders is high.

[29]      Further, a representative plaintiff is not akin to the investigative arm of a regulator. Regulators often have investigative powers that civil plaintiffs do not. There was no evidence that any of the sophisticated regulators investigating the alleged conspiracy had identified any of the respondents as co-conspirators before the UBS proffer.

The decision is also noteworthy for what is arguably the addition of a new consideration to the test.  The Court criticized the motion judge for having failed to determine with sufficient precision when the plaintiffs ought to have discovered their claim.  Prior to this decision, I think it was generally understood that when a proposed defendant argues that leave is inappropriate based on evidence that the plaintiff could through reasonable diligence have discovered the claim within two years of the motion, it wasn’t necessary for the proposed defendant to provide an exact date on which discovery ought to have occurred.  Going forward, should the court neglect to make a finding in regards of the date when discovery ought to have occurred, there may be ground for appeal:

[32]      As the respondents appropriately conceded, there was no evidentiary foundation for the motion judge’s finding that the respondents’ identities as co-conspirators could have been established with reasonable diligence. The fact that UBS – one of the co-conspirators and a participant in the “collusive chats” – was able to identify other participants in the secret chats is no indication that the appellants, who were not co-conspirators, could have done so.

[33]      Nor did the motion judge determine with sufficient precision by when the appellants ought to have discovered that they had a claim. As noted above, the appellants claim would be statute barred only if the s. 5(1)(b) date were before July 20, 2014. The motion judge found the identity of BMO and TD could have been established “before the expiry of the limitation period”. It is not clear what the motion judge meant by “the expiry of the limitation period”. The respondents submitted that the limitation period expired on December 31, 2015 (two years after the end of the alleged conspiracy period). If the motion judge’s intended finding were that the appellants could have established the identities of BMO and TD by December 31, 2015, then the appellants’ claim against them would not have been statute-barred.

Ontario: Court of Appeal says don’t use r. 21.01(1)(a) to advance limitations defences

In Brozmanova v. Tarshis, the Court of Appeal has brought certainty to the question of whether a defendant may advance a limitations defence in a r. 21.01(1)(a) motion.  The answer is no.   Rule 21.01(1)(a) is for the determination of questions of law.  The expiry of the limitation period is a question of fact (or mixed fact and law).  Further, evidence is not admissible without leave under r. 21.01(1)(a), which puts the plaintiff in the unfair position of needing to seek leave to admit the evidence relevant to the limitations defence when it should be admissible as of right:

[10]      The Rules of Civil Procedure make available two sets of procedural devices by which a party can seek to dispose finally of a proceeding on a contested basis.

[11]      One set is evidence-based, under which the parties adduce evidence by various means, on the basis of which the court decides whether to grant or dismiss a proceeding. The Rules permit or offer several standard evidence-based procedural devices by which to obtain such a final adjudication on the merits: (i) the conventional trial; (ii) the hybrid trial; (iii) two forms of summary judgment – rules 20.04(2)(a) and 20.04(2)(b); and (iv) a rule 38 application.

[12]      The second set of procedural devices enables a party to ask the court to determine a question of law that may dispose of all or part of a proceeding. These law-based devices include: (i) a rule 22 special case; (ii) rule 21.01(1)(a), where a question of law is raised by a pleading; and (iii) rule 21.01(1)(b), where a pleading discloses “no reasonable cause of action or defence”.

[13]      The law-based character of the devices available under rules 21.01(1)(a) and (b) is reinforced by the limits placed on the use of evidence on motions brought under those rules. No evidence is admissible on a “no reasonable cause of action” motion; nor is evidence admissible on a “question of law” motion, except with leave of the judge or on consent of the parties: rule 21.01(2).

[14]      The rationale for these prescriptions is a simple one: the allegations asserted in the pleading, which the court must accept as provable at trial, are sufficient to determine the question of law or whether the pleading discloses a cause of action or defence recognized by law: see Hunt v. Carey Canada Inc.1990 CanLII 90 (SCC), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 959, at pp. 980, 988 and 990-991. No further facts are required to determine the legal sufficiency of the claim.

[15]      In the present case, Dr. Tarshis was sued for conduct as a medical practitioner. He and Ms. Brown are represented by a law firm with long experience in representing medical practitioners. They sought to dismiss Ms. Brozmanova’s action relying on two law-based rules: 21.01(1)(a) and (b).

The “question of law” under rule 21.01(1)(a)

[16]      The “question of law” the respondents raise under rule 21.01(1)(a) is that Ms. Brozmanova commenced her action outside of the two-year limitation period.

[17]      Relying on rule 21.01(1)(a) to advance a limitation period defence is a problematic use of the rule. Some decisions of this court characterize the issue of whether a plaintiff has commenced a proceeding within the limitation period as one involving a question of fact: Pepper v. Zellers Inc. (2006), 2006 CanLII 42355 (ON CA), 83 O.R. (3d) 648 (C.A.), at para. 19; and Arcari v. Dawson2016 ONCA 715 (CanLII), 134 O.R. (3d) 36, at para. 9, leave to appeal refused, [2016] S.C.C.A. No. 522. Others describe it as involving a question of mixed fact and law: Salewski v. Lalonde2017 ONCA 515 (CanLII), 137 O.R. (3d) 762, at para. 45; and Ridel v. Goldberg2017 ONCA 739 (CanLII), at para. 12. Regardless, it does not involve a question of law.

[18]      In the basic case, the court must ascertain “the day on which the claim was discovered”: Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24, Sched. B, s. 4 (the “Limitations Act”). This, in turn, requires making two findings of fact: (i) the day on which the person first knew of the four elements identified by s. 5(1)(a)(i)-(iv) of the Limitations Act;[1] and (ii) under s. 5(1)(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” s. 5(1)(a). The earliest of the two dates is the date on which the claim is discovered: s. 5(1).

[19]      The analysis required under s. 5(1) of the Limitations Act generally requires evidence and findings of fact to determine. It does not involve a “question of law” within the meaning of rule 21.01(1)(a).

[20]      Yet, here the respondents invoked a law-based rule to establish a largely fact-based defence. I recognize, as respondents’ counsel submits, that some jurisprudence exists that has allowed a defendant to resort to rule 21.01(1)(a) to determine its limitations defence “where it is plain and obvious from a review of a statement of claim that no additional facts could be asserted that would alter the conclusion that a limitation period had expired”: see the commentary on rule 21.01(1)(a) in Todd. L. Archibald, Gordon Killeen & James C. Morton, Ontario Superior Court Practice, 2018 (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2017), at p. 1128. See also Paul M. Perell & John W. Morden, The Law of Civil Procedure in Ontario, 3d ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 2017), at p. 611.

[21]      However, courts must always remember that permitting a defendant to move under 21.01(1)(a) to establish a limitations defence could prove unfair to a plaintiff, especially a self-represented one. By selecting rule 21.01(1)(a) as the procedural means to adjudicate its fact-based limitations defence, a defendant puts a plaintiff in the position where she cannot, as of right, file evidence to explain when she discovered her claim. Instead, she must seek leave of the court.

[22]      A plaintiff who risks the dismissal of her action on the basis of a limitations defence should not have to ask a court for permission to file evidence on the issue of when she discovered her claim. She should be entitled to do so as of right. It is unfair for a defendant to attempt, tactically, to deprive her of that right and put her to the unnecessary expense (and risk) of asking permission to do so.

[23]      Notwithstanding the jurisprudence that opens the rule 21.01(1)(a) door to some efforts to prove a limitations defence, in my respectful view such an approach risks working an unfairness to a responding plaintiff. Requiring a defendant to move under an evidence-based rule – either rule 20 (summary judgment) or rule 51.06(2) (concerning admissions of the truth of facts in a pleading) – avoids such potential unfairness and is to be preferred.

This strikes me as an excellent, well-reasoned decision.

The Court also noted that it would have been available to the defendant to move under r. 51.06(2) on the basis that the plaintiff had admitted discovery of her claim in the statement of claim:

[34]      The material facts pleaded by Ms. Brozmanova at paras. 8-9 and 15-16 of her statement of claim were admissions of the truth of certain facts. She clearly pleaded that in 2009, as a result of dealing with an insurance company on a matter regarding her ankle injury, she discovered that her OHIP record contained entries for billings by Dr. Tarshis, which she alleges were fraudulent.

[35]      Given the admissions in her pleading, it would have been open to the respondents to move on those admitted material facts to dismiss the claim on the basis that Ms. Brozmanova had discovered it in 2009 and therefore the action was statute-barred: rules 20 or 51.06(2).[3] In 2009, she knew that some “damage” had occurred within the meaning of s. 5(1)(a) of the Limitations Act because she knew that her actual position was worse than her position before: Hamilton (City) v. Metcalfe & Mansfield Capital Corporation2012 ONCA 156 (CanLII), 290 O.A.C. 42, at para. 42. That the “damage” she discovered in 2009 was not the same damage for which she sought recovery in her action – her alleged inability in 2015 to purchase travel insurance – does not matter. Knowledge of “some damage” is sufficient for the cause of action to accrue and to start the limitation period: Hamilton, at para. 61.

While I’ve not seen a limitation defence advanced using this procedure, it makes good sense for those rare circumstances where a plaintiff unwittingly pleads facts that demonstrate discovery of a claim.

 

Ontario: Put that best foot forward (or else)

Bergen v. Fast Estate is a reminder from the Court of Appeal that in a summary judgment motion on a limitations defence, the plaintiff needs to put her best evidentiary foot forward, or lose:

[11]      In response to Aviva’s motion for summary judgment, no evidence was filed that had the effect of rebutting the presumption that as at the date of his accident, the appellant knew he was not the owner of the motor vehicle but his father was. In particular, there was no evidence from either the appellant or his father, Johan Bergen Sr., both of whom were clients of the law firm when the appellant’s claim was issued. Given the appellant’s obligation to put his “best foot forward” in response to Aviva’s motion for summary judgment and his onus to rebut the presumption under s. 5(2), the motion judge was entitled to assume that there would be no additional evidence at trial to assist the appellant on these issues.

[12]      Absent any evidence rebutting the presumption, the appellant and his counsel (as the appellant’s agent) were presumed to know who owned the vehicle prior to the issuance of the statement of claim. Accordingly, they were also presumed to know at that time that the owner was a potential defendant and that an action against the owner would therefore be an appropriate remedy to recover damages for the appellant’s injuries. That it was not strictly necessary to add the owner of the vehicle as a defendant at the time the statement of claim was issued does not determine whether an action against the owner was an appropriate remedy. As the motion judge stated, “[t]here could never be an argument that the appropriate remedy against the owner of the vehicle was anything other than to include him as a defendant in the action when the Statement of Claim was issued”.

Ontario: the timing of amendments to plead discoverability

Marvelous Mario’s Inc. et al. v. St. Paul Fire And Marine Insurance Co.  provides authority for the principle that an amendment to plead discoverability is available at any time:

[52]           The plaintiffs’ pleading is silent as to discoverability. Recognizing the gap in their pleading, the plaintiffs have moved for an order allowing them to amend their pleading to plead discoverability. St. Paul takes no position on the motion. Rule 26.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194allows for an amendment to be made at any time, even after the conclusion of trial: Hardy v. Herr, 1965 CanLII 225 (ON CA)[1965] 2 O.R. 801 (Ont. C.A.), at para. 2. Discoverability was an issue thoroughly canvassed at trial. I see no prejudice to St. Paul in granting the amendment. Accordingly, the plaintiffs’ motion to amend their statement of claim to plead discoverability is granted.

All of that said, it’s worth noting that the facts setting up a discovery argument are properly pleaded in reply.

Ontario: sometimes issuing a statement of claim doesn’t mean discovery of the claim

 

Is commencing a proceeding in respect of a claim determinative of the discovery of that claim?  Not always, according to the Court of Appeal in Har Jo Management Services Canada Ltd. V. York (Regional Municipality).

Flood waters flowing from adjacent land, which the respondent municipality had expropriated for a construction project, damaged the appellant’s property.

In 2011, the appellant commenced proceeding before the Ontario Municipal Board claiming damages for injurious affection in respect of the expropriation.

On June 3, 2013, the appellant sent a letter to the respondent stating that its activities on the adjacent land caused the flooding and resulting damage.  The respondent denied causing the flooding on June 28, 2013.

The appellant commenced an action two years form the respondent’s denial.  The respondent pleaded a limitations defence and move for summary judgment .

The Statement of Claim tracked the language of the appellant’s claim to the respondent.  The Motion Judge found that the appellant knew of his claim on the day he issued it.

Not so, held the Court of Appeal.  The Expropriations Act provides for damages for injurious affection and gives the OMB exclusive jurisdiction to award such damages.  If the flooding damage was caused by the respondent’s construction, the Superior Court would have no jurisdiction to hear the claim.

The appellant’s evidence explained that, to the extent the damage from the flood properly formed part of a claim for damages for injurious affection under the Expropriations Act, it would be part of the appellant’s existing OMB claim.  The action was merely “out of an abundance of caution” in case it turned out that the flooding was not caused by the respondent’s construction, but by some other factors that did not meet the definition of injurious affection.

There was no suggestion that something other than the construction might have caused the flooding until the respondent’s June 28, 2013 letter.  It was on this date that that appellant knew that a proceeding was an appropriate remedy for a claim against the respondent and not a proceeding before the OMB.

The curious aspect of this decision is that issuing a statement of claim (or even drafting the statement of claim) was not determinative of the discovery of the claim it pleads.  There is authority for the principle that it is logically inconsistent for a plaintiff to commence an action before discovering a claim.  See also s. 14(3) of the Limitations Act.

It’s certainly hard to understand how a court could find that a statement of claim does not indicate discovery of the claim pleaded in it, or that objective discovery can occur after subjective discovery.

Here, the Court seems to have avoided this problem by finding that the appellant’s evidence demonstrated that the statement of claim did not indicate subjective discovery of the claim.  This is likely to happen very rarely, and I expect that this decision will be an outlier.

I think the limitations defence might have been avoided if the statement of claim (which I haven’t seen) had pleaded explicitly that it advanced a claim only in regards of the damage that was not within the OMB’s exclusive jurisdiction.

Ontario: amendments are subject to time-bars

In Lucky Star Developments Inc. v. ABSA Canada International, the Court of Appeal rejected the doubtful argument that because the basic limitation period applies to the commencement of proceedings, it does not apply to proceedings that have already been commenced, and therefore does not bar amendments under r. 26.01:

[7]         In oral submissions, the appellant argued that s. 4 of the Limitations Act 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24, Sched. B does not apply to proceedings that have already been commenced, and so does not bar amendments under r. 26.01. We disagree. As the court noted in Joseph, the rules must be read in light of the Act and its purpose in establishing a basic limitation period in s. 4. Amendments adding claims after the limitation period has expired constitute prejudice.

 

Though it’s  plain this argument was bound to fail—it would mean there is no limitation of new claims asserted in already-commenced proceedings—it’s a symptom of the conceptual difficulties that arises from the language “proceeding in respect of a claim”.

The jurisprudence seems to have settled on “proceeding” having the same meaning as it does under the Rules.   Rule 1.03 defines “proceeding” to include an action and an application, and the Court of Appeal has applied this definition to the term “proceeding” as used in the Limitations Act: see e.g. Giglio v. Peters, 2009 ONCA 681 at paras. 21-22 [“Giglio”]. See also Guillemette v. Doucet, 2007 ONCA 743 at para. 20.

Strictly applied, this means that s. 4 bars actions or applications commenced in respect of a claim.  A proposed amendment to add a claim to an existing action is of course not a proposal to commence a new action.  I’ve argued before that the solution to this tension is to abandon a narrow definition of “proceeding” and to define the commencement of a proceeding broadly enough to include amending a pleading to introduce a new claim.

 

Ontario: simplified procedure and summary judgment motions on limitations defences

Cornacchia v. Rubinoff illustrates the difficulties of moving for summary judgment on limitations defences in simplified procedure actions.  This is because there are no cross-examinations on affidavits under simplified procedure. The court denied the motion on the basis that the simplified procedure did not permit the findings of fact required by the limitations defence:

[3]               An important factor in the argument on the motion is that the underlying claim was commenced under the simplified procedure provided in rule 76.  As a result, pursuant to rule 76.04(1), cross-examination on the affidavits filed on the motion is not permitted.  A further implication of the fact that the underlying action is brought under the simplified procedure rules, is that it can be expected to be a relatively short trial.

[4]               For reasons that I will explain, I find that the combination of two procedural aspects of this motion lead me to conclude that the limitation period issue in this case is not an appropriate issue for summary judgment, either in favour of the defendant, or in favour of the plaintiff.  I find that in the absence of cross-examination on the affidavits filed on the motion, particularly the plaintiff’s affidavit, the record on this motion does not allow me to make the necessary findings of fact and credibility to fairly dispose of the motion.

[30]           I find that the absence of cross-examination on the affidavits filed in the motion, raises concerns for my ability to make the necessary findings of fact and credibility to dispose of the motion, for the following reasons.

[31]           In order to assess the subjective branch of the analysis – when the plaintiff first knew that the four criteria in s. 5(1)(a)(i) to (iv) were met – the court must make factual findings about what information the plaintiff knew when, and his subjective belief about that information in relation to the criteria in s. 5(1)(a)(i) to (iv).

[32]           This assessment involves making findings of credibility about the plaintiff’s evidence on the motion.  I note that counsel for the defendant was clear during the course of argument that she was relying on both the subjective and objective branches of the Limitations Act analysis.

[40]           Concept Plastics does not hold that summary judgment will never be available on a simplified procedure matter due to the unavailability of cross-examination on the affidavits filed for the motion.  Rather, in Concept Plastics the Court of Appeal signaled the need for caution in considering summary judgment motions in simplified procedure matters, due to the unavailability of cross-examination.  Where a motions judge is considering a summary judgment motion in a simplified procedure matter, the judge should consider if there is unfairness as a result of the unavailability of cross-examination.  If the motions judge grants the motion, the judge should explain why and how the potential unfairness due to the unavailability of cross-examination is addressed by the materials filed on the motion: see Concept Plastics at paragraphs 24-25.