Ontario: s. 5(1)(a)(iv) and the limitation of false arrest and imprisonment claims

Vu v. Attorney General of Canada considers the limitation of a claim arising from false arrest and imprisonment, and in particular the impact of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Limitations Act on the analysis:

[30]           Not surprisingly, the defendant takes the position that the limitation period commenced when Vu was detained, on June 27, 2013.  At that time, they say, he must have known that his arrest and detention were wrongful.  Alternatively, the defendant argues that Vu would certainly have known it was wrongful by July 9, 2013, following the second detention hearing when the ID accepted the evidence contained in McNamara’s Statutory Declaration.

[31]           The plaintiff, on the other hand, asserts that the limitation period runs from the date of his release from detention in Vietnam, on October 8, 2014.  The plaintiff argues that he could not have initiated his claim for false imprisonment when first arrested and the act of wrongful detention was still ongoing. Plaintiff’s counsel analogized this to suing for battery while the knife is still in your arm. Further, the plaintiff claims that the CBSA represented to him many times that his release from immigration detention was “imminent,” yet he remained detained for a total of 15 months, without knowing or being able to know for how long he would remain in custody.

[32]           The defendant relies upon Kolosov v. Lowe’s Companies Inc., 2016 ONCA 973, O.J. No. 6702 (“Kolosov”), in which the Court of Appeal seems to accept that the limitation period commences on the first date of detention, stating at para. 11:

The law in relation to the commencement of the limitation period for the intentional torts of false arrest and imprisonment … is well-settled. As Chiapetta J. noted in Fournier-McGarry (Litigation Guardian of) v. Ontario2013 ONSC 2581 at para. 16,

 A claim for the common law torts of false arrest, false imprisonment and breach of Charter rights arising therefrom crystallizes on the date of arrest (see Nicely v. Waterloo Regional Police Force,  1991 CanLII 7338 (ON SC), [1991] O.J. No. 460 (Ont. Div. Ct.), at para. 14).

 [33]           The plaintiff, on the other hand, cites a conflicting Court of Appeal decision, Mackenzie v. Martin1952 CanLII 85 (ON CA), [1952] O.R. 849 (Ont. C.A.), at paras. 6-8, aff’d 1954 CanLII 10 (SCC), [1954] S.C.R. 361 (S.C.C.), which refers to case law dating back to the 18th century, and states that the limitation period for a false imprisonment claim commences upon the date of release. To my knowledge, while the case is dated, Mackenzie v. Martin has never been overturned.

[34]           The conflict is not easily resolved by the jurisprudence.  In Fournier-McGarry (Litigation Guardian of) v. Ontario, at para. 16, Chiapetta J. relied on Nicely v. Waterloo Regional Police Force (“Nicely”) in making her statement that the Court of Appeal subsequently adopted in Kolosov. However, while the Divisional Court held in Nicely, at para. 15, that the test “is as of the date of arrest and imprisonment,” it was discussing the question of liability and the grounds for arrest when the arrest took place, not the limitation period. This point was not addressed by Chiapetta J. in Fournier-McGarry, or by the Court of Appeal in Kolosov, both of which simply accept the statement as dealing with limitation periods. Elsewhere, the Divisional Court in Nicely suggested, at paras. 8-9, that the time period begins to run when the tort is “complete,” or upon release. In Nicely, however, the arrest, detention and release all occurred on the same day, as was also the case in Fournier-McGarry.

[35]           Ferri v. Root2007 ONCA 79, O.J. No. 397, leave to appeal refused, [2007] S.C.C.A. No. 175 (“Ferri”), is another, more recent, case in which the plaintiff was arrested and released on the same day. There, the Court of Appeal, at para. 102, reiterated the finding in Nicely that “the test for these torts is at the date of arrest and imprisonment,” but addressed the limitation period in the same context that it arose in Nicely, which was under s. 7 of the Public Authorities Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.38. (“PAPA”). That Act required that an action be “commenced within six months next after the cause of action arose or in case of continuance of injury or damages within six months after the ceasing thereof” (emphasis added). Accordingly, the Court in Ferri, at para. 103, concluded that the injury of false imprisonment ceased when the plaintiff was released.

[36]           There is also the concern that a false arrest and an unlawful imprisonment may not occur at the same time. One may be lawfully arrested but unlawfully detained, or a detention that is lawful at the outset may become unlawful at a subsequent point in time. For example, a lawful immigration detention can become unlawful due to its conditions, its length, procedural fairness, or if it is “no longer reasonably necessary to further the machinery of immigration control:” Chaudhary v. Canada (Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness), 2015 ONCA 700, 127 O.R. (3d) 401, at paras. 81, 86; Re Charkaoui2007 SCC 9, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 350, at para. 123Scotland v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONSC 4850, 139 O.R. (3d) 191.

[37]           The plaintiff submits that the approach in Mackenzie v. Martin is also consistent with the law in the United States, where time runs from the date of release, not the date of detention: Milliken v. City of South Pasadena, 158 Cal. Rptr. 409, 412 (Cal. Ct. App. 1979); Donaldson v. O’Connor493 F.2d 507, 529 (5th Cir. 1974).

[38]           While I have concerns with the broad application of Kolosov urged on me by the defendant, I do not need to resolve the conflict in the cases in this matter. This case does not arise under the PAPA, which would cause me to consider a continuing injury. Rather, since section 5(1)(a) of the Limitations Act establishes a four-part test, I regard Kolosov as simply setting up a presumption (which was not rebutted in that case) that the cause of action arose on the date of arrest and detention or, at latest, the date of the second detention hearing, but it does not address all four parts of the test. This means I must still consider when the plaintiff had sufficient facts on which to base an allegation of wrongful arrest and detention, and whether, “[h]aving regard to the nature of the loss or damage, a proceeding would have been an appropriate means to seek to remedy it.”

[46]           In this case, however, the plaintiff did not delay the bringing of his claim for reasons of strategy. Rather, in the absence of the memorandum disclosing that McNamara’s Statutory Declaration was incorrect, he simply had no claim to bring. At the ID hearing on July 9, 2013, Vu tried to persuade the tribunal that he was in compliance with his terms of release and that the CBSA was mistaken, but the tribunal preferred McNamara’s more detailed evidence and made a finding of fact against the plaintiff. The plaintiff was without any evidence to rebut that finding until the disclosure on June 10, 2015. At no point during the hearing on July 9, 2013, or at any subsequent hearing, did McNamara reveal that she had relied on an interpreter; rather, the evidence in her Statutory Declaration (which itself was only disclosed in January 2014) was that the she and the witness had spoken to each other in English.

 [47]           Further, prior to receiving the memorandum in June 2015, Vu was pursuing other, more pressing and appropriate remedies, including detention reviews, the spousal sponsorship application, and attempts to address living arrangements for his infant daughter.  I find, as the Court of Appeal did in Presidential MSH Corporation v. Marr, Foster & Co. LLP2017 ONCA 325135 O.R. (3d) 321 (“Presidential MSH Corporation”)at para. 32that it would have been inappropriate to require the plaintiff to prematurely resort to court proceedings while the statutory alternative process was ongoing, which might make the proceedings unnecessary.” Moreover, a lawsuit would not have achieved Vu’s objective of being released.
 [48]           Had Vu known of the evidence that McNamara’s Statutory Declaration was incorrect when he was in custody, he undoubtedly would have raised that before the ID. Although he did not seek to review the ID’s detention order in the Federal Court, as his counsel explained Vu had good reasons not to do so: he accepted the CBSA’s representations that his removal was “imminent,” and perceived that making an application would have been a waste of time and money and might have delayed his deportation due to the CBSA’s need to defend the claim.  Further, as the Supreme Court of Canada observed recently in Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness) v. China2019 SCC 29433 D.L.R. (4th) 381, at paras. 61-67, judicial review of an Immigration Division decision is challenging.  The onus is squarely on the applicant to establish the decision is unreasonable, leave is required, and remedies are limited. Instead of releasing an applicant, Karakatsanis J. noted, at para. 65 that even a successful judicial review “will generally result in an order for redetermination, requiring further hearings to obtain release and thereby extending detention” (emphasis added).

[52]           In this case, however, rather than the contents of the disclosure having a negligible impact on the reasonable and probable grounds for Vu’s arrest and detention, the revelation that McNamara had used an interpreter while interviewing the witness was not merely a finding of helpful evidence – it was a finding that turned the evidence against Vu on its head, as it threw doubt on the veracity of the testimony that was used to justify the arrest and detention. This was evidence upon which the Tribunal clearly relied during the July 9, 2013 hearing and throughout Vu’s fifteen months in detention. As a result, I do not accept the defendant’s submission that the disclosure of the memorandum in June 2015 was simply something that strengthened an already “discovered” claim: see, e.g., Sosnowski, at paras. 19, 27-29. The plaintiff’s affidavit might have invited this argument where he stated that only after the June 13, 2016 disclosure he became “confident that my detention had been unlawful.” However, that date was in fact when the government actually settled the bond litigation, one year after the memorandum was released to him in June 2015. In any event, in my view this statement was simply recognition that he now had a basis for a civil action for damages, something that, it is to be remembered, is not to be embarked upon lightly. As the Supreme Court stated in Novak v. Bond,  1999 CanLII 685 (SCC)[1999] 1 S.C.R. 808 (S.C.C.), at para. 85:

Litigation is never a process to be embarked upon casually and sometimes a plaintiff’s individual circumstances and interests may mean that he or she cannot reasonably bring an action at the time it first materializes. This approach makes good policy sense. To force a plaintiff to sue without having regard to his or her own circumstances may be unfair to the plaintiff and may also disserve the defendant by forcing him or her to meet an action pressed into court prematurely.

[55]           Applying these principles, in my view, a lawsuit for damages over Vu’s arrest and detention was not an “appropriate means” to redress the wrong done to him when he was arrested and held in custody until he obtained the disclosure in June 2015 that the CBSA had misled the ID. This was many months after he had been removed from Canada. Prior to receiving that information, Vu appropriately pursued other avenues to address his detention and removal, relied on the good faith of the CBSA and the ID process, and did not have grounds for suing for damages. A lawsuit would have been premature, and therefore was not an appropriate means under s. 5(1)(a)(iv) until June 2015.

Ontario: s. 5(1) requires specific factual findings

Cooper v. Toronto (City) follows Morrison v. Barzo for the principle that the court must answer the questions asked by s. 5(1)(a) and (b) of the Limitations Act.  The court found that a Master’s failure to make these specific findings was a reversible error:

[17]           The first ground of appeal is that the Master erred by dismissing the Motion without making findings regarding: (1) the date on which the plaintiff first knew the requisite elements of her claim against Hydro; and (2) when “a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of [the plaintiff] first ought to have known of such claim.” Such findings are a requirement before any finding that claims against a proposed defendant are statute-barred: see Morrison v. Barzo at para. 30.

[18]           I agree that the Master erred in law in dismissing the Motion without making either of these findings.

[19]           In dismissing the Motion without making the necessary findings of fact set out above to ground her decision, the Master erred in law by failing to apply the test as set out in Morrison v. Barzo. Accordingly, the Order must be set aside.
The decision also provides a good example of why taking the position that a particular step could have resulted in earlier discovery is not determinative of when discovery ought to have occurred.  Evidence that the step would have resulted in earlier discovery is necessary:
[27]           I pause to address the question of who has the onus of demonstrating that Cooper’s cause of action was actually discovered, or was reasonably discoverable, more than two years prior to the commencement of the Motion. While it is not made express in Fennell and Morrison, in circumstances such as the present where a plaintiff demonstrates a reasonable basis for concluding that a cause of action was discovered within the applicable limitation period, as a practical matter, a proposed defendant who asserts a limitation defence must demonstrate that the plaintiff had actual knowledge, or reasonably ought to have had knowledge, on an earlier date outside the limitation period.
 [28]           If the basis of the defendant’s position in such circumstances is not that the evidence demonstrates actual knowledge at an earlier date but rather that the plaintiff failed to conduct a duly diligent investigation, Morrison v. Barzo says that the plaintiff has the onus of providing a reasonable explanation for his or her failure to conduct any further investigation. As I understand the applicable case law including Skrobacky v. Frymer, in such event, a court may grant the defendant’s motion only if it finds the plaintiff’s explanation to be unreasonable. If, however, such a determination requires a finding of a material fact or a determination regarding the plaintiff’s credibility, a motions judge should not determine the reasonableness of the explanation without a trial to determine such matters. In such circumstances, therefore, the motions judge cannot make a determination of whether the plaintiff should reasonably have discovered his or her claim outside the applicable limitation period – that is, satisfied the plaintiff’s obligation of due diligence that is implicit in s. 5(1)(b) of the Limitations Act, 2002 – and must therefore dismiss the defendant’s motion.
 [29]           In my opinion, the Court finds itself in that position in the present circumstances.
 [30]           Cooper’s explanation for her failure to investigate the ownership of the Pole is essentially that her communications with the two most obvious potential defendants – the condominium corporation and the City – did not prompt a suggestion that Hydro might be the owner of the Pole. She says, in effect, that she was entitled to rely on the communication from the condominium corporation’s insurer and her communications with the City that suggested that the City was the owner in the absence of any suggestion to the contrary from the City until December 2016. Accordingly, Cooper’s argument proceeds on the basis that she never received any information that gave rise to a need to inquire further regarding the ownership of the Pole.
 [31]           Cooper submits that this is a reasonable explanation, given the low threshold for a reasonable explanation in the case law. She relies on the decisions in Galota v. Festival Hall Developments Ltd. et al., 2015 ONSC 6177; upheld 2016 ONCA 585Madrid v. Ivanhoe Cambridge Inc., et al., 2010 ONSC 2235 and Kesian v. The City of Toronto2016 ONSC 6461 as evidence of this low threshold and as exhibiting similar circumstances in which courts have concluded that the threshold had been satisfied.
 [32]           Hydro effectively argues that Cooper’s explanation is not reasonable in view of either or both of her receipt of the Article and the City’s denial of jurisdiction in its statement of defence. In my view, however, given the evidence before the Master and this Court, neither Cooper’s mere receipt of the Article, without evidence that she actually read it, nor the City’s denial of jurisdiction in its statement of defence were sufficient to fix her with knowledge that required a further investigation for the following reasons.
 [33]           The mere existence of the Article cannot be a basis for concluding that Cooper ought reasonably to have conducted a further investigation. This would require a finding, by inference or otherwise, that she read the Article such that she was aware, at a minimum, of the subject-matter of the Article even if she did not have knowledge of the specific facts set out therein. However, the Court’s conclusion above that a trial is required to determine whether Cooper read the Article precludes such a finding by this Court.
 [34]           Accordingly, Hydro’s second submission really turns on whether Cooper’s receipt of the City’s statement of defence was sufficient to require a further investigation. I accept that a specific denial of jurisdiction could, in some circumstances, have such a result.  However, in this case, the denial was only one of at least ten alternative defences asserted by the City in its statement of defence. In addition, the denial was not accompanied by the assertion of any specific facts supporting this defence nor did it identify Hydro as the owner of the Pole. It is not reasonable to assume that a plaintiff would identify a potential issue of ownership from a bald denial of jurisdiction in such circumstances.
 [35]           I also note that Hydro has identified a number of searches that it says would have revealed its ownership of the Pole if Cooper had conducted one or more of them. I do not doubt the utility of such searches. However, the issue is not whether such searches would have revealed Hydro’s ownership of the Pole but rather whether any searches were required, that is, put in the negative, whether Cooper’s failure to undertake any of these searches was unreasonable.
 [36]           In summary, the relevant evidence before the Court is limited to the following. The Pole was located on a City sidewalk. There is no evidence of any indication on the Pole that Hydro was the owner. There is also no evidence that Cooper ever read, or understood the contents of, the Article prior to May 15, 2017, which would have alerted her to Hydro’s ownership. Lastly, for a period of more than 44 months after Cooper put the City on notice of her claim, the City did not deny ownership of the Pole in any communication with Cooper or her counsel. In these circumstances, I conclude that the determination of whether Cooper has a reasonable explanation for her failure to investigate further the ownership of the Pole will require a trial of the issue regarding whether, and if so when, Cooper or her counsel read the Article.

 

Ontario: stop arguing common law discovery

The Divisional Court decision in Rooplal v. Fodor holds that the Limitations Act’s discovery provisions determine discoverability, not common law principles.  16 years after the Limitations Act came into force, this is a point that still needs making.

The motion judge had found the plaintiff’s proceeding timely, and the Divisional Court upheld her decision:

[4]               On the issue of discoverability, the parties relied on ostensibly conflicting lines of jurisprudence from the Court of Appeal for Ontario. On the one hand, were the cases decided before the Limitations Act had entered into force, finding that the limitation period begins to run when the material facts on which the claim is based have been discovered or ought to have been discovered by the plaintiff’s exercise of reasonable diligence (July v. Neal (1986), 1986 CanLII 149 (ON CA)32 D.L.R. (4th) 463Johnson v. Wunderlich (1986), 1986 CanLII 2618 (ON CA)34 D.L.R. (4th) 120Hier v. Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada (1988), 1988 CanLII 4741 (ON CA)51 D.L.R. (4th) 1; and Chambo v. Musseau (1993), 1993 CanLII 8680 (ON CA)15 O.R. (3d) 305. The other line of authority involves cases decided after the Limitations Act had entered into force, which, as explained in the Superior Court’s decision in Chahine v. Grybas2014 ONSC 4698, provided that the limitation period does not begin until the plaintiff makes an indemnification demand and the responding insurer fails to satisfy the claim (Markel Insurance Company of Canada v. ING Insurance Company of Canada2012 ONCA 218109 O.R. (3d) 652; and Schmitz v. Lombard General Insurance Company of Canada2014 ONCA 88118 O.R. (3d) 694, leave to appeal refused, [2014] S.C.C.A. No. 143). The defendants argued that the July line of cases sets out the proper discoverability analysis, while the plaintiff argued that the Markel line of cases sets out the proper analysis.

 [5]               The Motions judge ultimately determined that she was bound by the Markel line of authorities rather than the July line of cases because, while the latter is predicated on the common law principles of discoverability set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Central Trust Co. v. Rafuse1986 CanLII 29 (SCC)[1986] 2 S.C.R. 147, the discoverability provisions in the Limitations Act govern the analysis in the present case rather than the common law principles before the Court of Appeal in the July line of cases.

 

Ontario: the principles of mva “threshold” claims

Dimech v. Osman contains a useful summary of the limitation of claims for non-pecuniary losses arising from a motor vehicle accident:

[14]      Under s. 4(1) of the Limitations Act, 2002 a person loses the right to sue for a claim two years after she “discovers” the claim. Under s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act, 2002 a plaintiff injured in a car accident will be presumed to have discovered her claim on the day of the accident unless she proves that she did not discover the claim that day and that a reasonable person with her abilities and in her circumstances would not have discovered the claim until a later time.

[15]      While one might normally think that being injured in a car accident automatically gives one a claim or the right to sue, that is not necessarily the case. Under s.267.5(5) of the Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c I.8 a person injured in a car accident in Ontario can only sue for non-pecuniary losses if the accident caused her to suffer “permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function.” This is commonly referred to as the “threshold”. If a plaintiff cannot prove that her injuries meet the threshold, her claim for non-pecuniary loss will be dismissed.

[16]      While a plaintiff can sue for pecuniary loss without meeting the threshold, case law provides that for the limitation period to commence in Ontario in relation to a motor vehicle accident lawsuit in which both pecuniary

and non-pecuniary damages are claimed, the plaintiff must have known or ought reasonably to have known that she could likely meet the threshold so as to have the right to sue. In Ioannidis v. Hawkings 1998 CanLII 14822 (ON SC), Justice Langdon held that for the two-year limitation period to start running, there must be,

…a sufficient body of evidence available to be placed before a judge that, in counsel’s opinion, has a reasonable chance of persuading a judge, on the balance of probabilities that the injury qualifies.

[17]      The question of when the limitation period commences is a question of fact. See: Farhat v Monteanu2015 ONSC 2119 (CanLII), at para. 33. It requires a finding of a date when a plaintiff or her lawyer knew or ought reasonably to have known that she had a reasonable chance to prove that she suffered permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function as a result of the car accident.

The decision also provides an example of the consequences of failing to adduce the evidence material to the limitation of these claims:

[18]      There is no evidence from Mr. Bekiaris as to whether he, as the plaintiff’s counsel, had formed an opinion during the 37-day pre-limitation period window that the plaintiff had a reasonable chance of persuading a judge that his injuries would meet the threshold. I offered Mr. Bekiaris an opportunity to consider refraining for acting as counsel on this motion both due to this evidentiary issue and in consideration of the fact that if the defendants succeed in having this action dismissed, Mr. Bekiaris could possibly face a claim for having missed the limitation period. He determined to proceed as counsel.

 [22]      With no evidence from counsel, and no evidence of any contemporaneous prognosis from a doctor, I am left to try to determine by inference whether the plaintiff or his counsel ought reasonably to have known that his injuries reasonably could have met the threshold during the 37-day pre-limitation period window.

 [26]      The defendants argue that with the burden lying on the plaintiff to prove that he could not reasonably have discovered his claim in the 37-day pre-limitation period window, it was incumbent upon him to adduce evidence to show that he or his counsel acted with diligence by asking a doctor for a prognosis. The defendants argue that the plaintiff has failed to prove that he asked any doctor whether his injuries were likely to permanently seriously impair an important function right up to the time that the claim was issued. As such, he cannot meet his burden to show that he acted with diligence as required to rebut the presumption in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act, 2002.

 [29]      Like the plaintiff, the defendants have adduced no evidence to establish that a reasonable person, in the first 37 days after this type of accident, suffering injuries like those of the plaintiff, would likely know that he or she is likely to meet the threshold. There is no expert prognosis. There is no evidence about whether in the 37-day pre-limitation period window the plaintiff’s counsel ought to have concluded that he had a sufficient body of evidence to provide a reasonable chance of persuading a judge that the plaintiff’s injuries will meet the threshold.

 [31]      In my view, the defendants have not met their evidentiary burden to allow me to fairly and justly adjudicate the limitation period issue summarily. While there may perhaps be cases where a plaintiff’s injuries are so severe that they can confidently be said to meet the threshold from day one, I cannot tell if this is such a case. The defendants have given me the plaintiff’s medical records. But I have nothing to allow me to draw an inference that the plaintiff or his lawyer ought to have concluded in the first 37 days after the accident that the injuries met or were likely to meet the threshold at some time in future.

 [32]      Similarly, while I was able to conclude at first instance in Yasmin that the plaintiff had not diligently pursued a claim on the facts, I have nothing to allow me to reach the same conclusion here and now. I do not know if a reasonable patient 37 days into treatment ought to have been asking his doctors for long term prognoses about serious impairment of important functions. Neither is there any evidence before me to let me weigh or conclude whether a reasonable personal injury lawyer ought to have been seeking reports from the doctors about threshold issues within the 37-day pre-limitation period window.

Ontario: the consequences of failing to plead discovery in reply

The defendant in Anisman v. Drabinsky argued that the plaintiff could not argue discovery in response to a limitations defence because he hadn’t served a Reply pleading the material facts of discovery.  The court rejected this (very optimistic argument) argument:

[17]           Finally, Defendants’ counsel submits that the Plaintiff’s factum makes improper reference to his response to the Defendants’ limitation argument. It is the Defendants’ position that since the Plaintiff never issued a Reply pleading in response to the limitation point raised in the Statement of Defence, the Plaintiff is prohibited from arguing any defence to the limitation challenge. Defendants’ counsel therefore asks that those paragraphs be struck from the Plaintiff’s factum.

[19]           The Plaintiff may not have a pleading to support his point, but there is evidence in the record that has been fairly adduced that supports it. The Court of Appeal has expressly held that under such circumstances it would be an error to proceed on the basis suggested by Defendants’ counsel: “Again, this was a summary judgment motion, the resolution of which depended on a consideration of the evidence adduced by the parties, and not their pleadings:” Collins v Cortez2014 ONCA 685, at para 12.

[20]           The Plaintiff here seeks summary judgment, and it is incumbent on me to consider the record as a whole rather than to focus narrowly on the pleadings alone. I therefore find no reason to redact or excise any portion of the evidentiary record or any factum.

[46]           The Statement of Claim herein was issued on June 18, 2019, some 3 years and 9 months after the impugned transfer of title. Defendants’ counsel submits that the 2-year limitation period under the Limitations Act, 2002 was missed by the Plaintiff. Defendants’ counsel further submits that the Defendants having pleaded a limitation defence, it was incumbent on the Plaintiff to serve a Reply pleading. He argues that failing that, the Plaintiff is foreclosed from including anything in the present Motion Record by way of a response to the limitation defence.

[47]           Counsel for the Defendants relies on Rule 25.08 for the proposition that a Reply pleading is necessary in these circumstances. That Rule provides:
25.08 (1) A party who intends to prove a version of the facts different from that pleaded in the opposite party’s defence shall deliver a reply setting out the different version, unless it has already been pleaded in the claim.

(2) A party who intends to reply in response to a defence on any matter that might, if not specifically pleaded, take the opposite party by surprise or raise an issue that has not been raised by a previous pleading shall deliver a reply setting out that matter…

[48]           It is evident from the wording of both parts of Rule 25.08 that it is the element of surprise that determines whether or not a Reply is required. That is, the Defendants must not be taken by surprise by facts of which they were unaware.

[49]           This court has long noted that, “[i]f a limitation defence is raised, the plaintiff should, where appropriate, serve a reply raising any facts and contentions relied upon to rebut the defence and pleading the basis for any discretion that the court may have in the matter”: D.S. Park Waldheim Inc. v Epping (1995), 1995 CanLII 7091 (ON SC)24 OR (3d) 83 (Gen Div), quoting Graham Mew, The Law of Limitations (Markham: Butterworths, 1991), p. 54. This is particularly the case where “the plaintiff…relies on…the doctrine of discoverability…[which] depends on an unresolved question of fact”: Epping, at 85.
[50]           The Plaintiff makes a number of arguments in response. In the first place, he submits that there is nothing in his response to the limitation point that will take the Defendants by surprise. Secondly, he contends that the cause of action pleaded in the Statement of Claim was not discovered by him until substantially later, and that there was nothing in the conduct of the parties that would have tipped him off that a transfer of title had taken place with respect to the Property.
[51]           The Plaintiff points out that the Statement of Claim herein was served with a Certificate of Pending Litigation, which the Plaintiff had obtained on an ex parte basis at the outset. Since the Certificate was obtained without notice to the Defendants, the Plaintiff also served them at the same time with his Motion Record in support of the Certificate, as required. That Motion Record contained an affidavit sworn by the Plaintiff setting out how he had discovered the transfer of title. At paragraph 8 of his affidavit, served together with the Statement of Claim on June 25, 2019, the Plaintiff stated:
On September 11, 2015, shortly after my request for payment of August 24, 2015, Mr. Drabinsky transferred his interest in his house at 478 Spadina Road (the ‘Property’) to his wife. I learned of this transfer on April 20, 2019, before I examined Mr. Drabinsky in aid of execution.

[52]           The circumstances and date of discovery – i.e. that he first learned of the transfer when he searched title in preparation for an examination in aid of execution on the judgment he had obtained on November 15, 2018 – are the crucial facts on which the Plaintiff relies in responding to the limitation defence. It is this brief statement of fact that would likely have been contained in a Reply had one been served.  Given that it was contained in the package of materials served together with the Statement of Claim and Certificate of Pending Litigation, the Defendants were on notice in much the same way as they would have been had the sentence been repeated in a Reply pleading.

[53]           It is the Defendants’ position that if the relevant facts did not find their way into a Reply, they are to be ignored in assessing the merits of the limitation defence. I do not accept that position. To ignore what was in the Plaintiff’s motion record and affidavit because it was not repeated in a Reply would be to elevate form over substance to an unacceptable degree: Marshall v Watson Wyatt & Co., 2002 CanLII 13354, at para 25 (Ont CA).
[54]           As is evident from the narrative in Part II above, prior to the examination in aid of execution there was nothing to prompt the Plaintiff to search title of the Property. Mr. Drabinsky consistently lead him to believe that he would be receiving payment imminently, and even provided him with replacement cheques when the previous ones became stale-dated. Further, Mr. Drabinsky was more than just another debtor; he was a rather renowned debtor who was very much in the public eye. It did not occur to the Plaintiff (or, presumably, to any other creditors) that Mr. Drabinsky would be denuding himself of substantial assets such as the Property. As the Plaintiff submits, there is only a duty to investigate when there is something that leads one to investigate: Fennell v Deol2015 ONSC 4835, para 8.

Ironically, the issue was moot because the plaintiff was seeking to recover land, which means the ten-year RPLA limitation period applied.

Ontario: the Court of Appeal on the commencement of benefit denial claims

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Clarke v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada is another addition to the jurisprudence considering when time runs for a benefits denial claim.  It delineates the extent to which a denial must be unequivocal to cause the claimant to know the insurer has breached the benefit obligation.

The appellant made a claim for long-term disability benefits after she stopped working due to health problems in 2011. By letter of March 19, 2012, Sun Life denied her claim and advised that three levels of appeal were available. She appealed. By letter of February 24, 2014, Sun Life advised the appellant that it had approved the benefits for a period ending in April 2013 but was otherwise denying her claim.

The motion judge found that the February 2014 letter was not a sufficiently clear denial to cause the appellant to know that she had sustained damage (the benefits denial). The Court of Appeal overturned this finding.  The letter informed the appellant that Sun Life was denying her benefits, which is the breach that founded her cause of action.  More explicit correspondence was unnecessary:

[15]      The motion judge started her analysis under the Limitations Act, 2002 by considering the date the injury, loss or damage occurred: ss. 5(1)(a)(i) and (b). The motion judge did not accept Sun Life’s submission that the February 24, 2014 letter marked the time at which Ms. Clarke first knew that an injury, loss or damage had occurred. She described the letter as “equivocal” and noted that it “did not use the language of refusal or denial”: at para. 21. She concluded that it was “not clear that the words used by the Sun Life letter of February 24, 2014 [were] a denial of disability benefits that amounted to ‘injury, loss or damage’”: at para. 23. She ultimately found, at para. 30, that the limitation period commenced with the denial communicated to Ms. Clarke by Sun Life on June 19, 2017, notwithstanding that that letter also did not use language of denial.

[16]      With respect, the motion judge erred in law by failing to apply the principle stated by this court in Pepper v. Sanmina-Sci Systems (Canada) Inc.2017 ONCA 730[2018] I.L.R. I-5996, at para. 1, that an insured has a cause of action for breach of contract against her insurer when the insurer stops paying long-term disability benefits. In its February 24, 2014 letter, Sun Life informed Ms. Clarke that her disability benefits terminated as of April 25, 2013, which was the date the “Own Occupation” benefits period ended. Sun Life went on to state that it would not pay “Any Occupation” benefits. Accordingly, by February 24, 2014, a “loss, injury or damage” had occurred that would have been known to a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of Ms. Clarke: Limitations Act, 2002, ss. 5(1)(a)(i) and (b).
[17]      I note that in reaching her conclusion on s. 5(1)(a)(i), the motion judge relied on the decision of the Divisional Court in Western Life Assurance Company v. Penttila2019 ONSC 14144 O.R. (3d) 198. The motion judge appears to have misapplied Western Life Assurance on the issue of when an insured knows that a loss, injury or damage has occurred. As that decision clearly stated, at para. 17, the parties agreed that for the purposes of s. 5(1)(a)(i) the insured knew that a loss had occurred on the date her benefits came to an end, which is the governing principle as stated in Pepper.

The decision also describes the findings of fact required by s. 5(1) and (2) of the Limitations Act:

[19]      The discoverability analysis required by ss. 5(1) and (2) of the Act contains cumulative and comparative elements.

[20]      Section 5(1)(a) identifies the four elements a court must examine cumulatively to determine when a claim was “discovered”. When considering the four s. 5(1)(a) elements, a court must make two findings of fact:
(i)      The court must determine the “day on which the person with the claim first knew” all four of the elements. In making this first finding of fact, the court must have regard to the presumed date of knowledge established by s. 5(2): “A person with a claim shall be presumed to have known of the matters referred to in clause (1) (a) on the day the act or omission on which the claim is based took place, unless the contrary is proved”; and

(ii)      The court must also determine “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 four elements identified in s. 5(1)(a).

Armed with those two findings of fact, s. 5(1) then requires the court to compare the two dates and states that a claim is discovered on the earlier of the two dates: see Nasr Hospitality Services Inc. v. Intact Insurance2018 ONCA 725142 O.R. (3d) 561, at paras. 34-35.

The motion judge erred by failing to make “any specific finding about either”:

[22]      The motion judge’s reasons disclose that she failed to make any specific finding about either date.

Ontario: some pedantry in response to the Court of Appeal decision in Rumsam

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Rumsam v. Pakes overturned the motion judge’s order granting the plaintiff leave to add a doctor as a defendant to the proceeding.  The doctor had opposed the motion on the basis of an expired limitation period.  The motion judge found the proceeding timely.

The Court’s conclusion seems right to me, but it contains some statements of law that are problematic and require comment.

First, there is this description of s. 5(1)(b):

[30]      As of August 29, 2013, Ms. Rumsam was obliged to exercise reasonable diligence to secure the name of the second doctor to satisfy the requirement in s. 5(b) [sic] of the Limitations Act that a “cause of action arises for the purposes of a limitation period when the material facts on which it is based have been discovered, or ought to have been discovered, by the plaintiff by the exercise of reasonable diligence” (emphasis added): Lawless, at para. 22.

This is not an accurate description of s. 5(1)(b).  That section provides that discovery occurs “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)”.

What paragraph 30 describes is common law discovery.  Discovery as codified in s. 5(1)(b) differs from common law discovery in two material ways.  First, the knowledge required by s. 5(1)(b) isn’t the material facts of a cause of action, but the four discovery matters in s. 5(1)(a); while these may accord generally with some causes of action, they don’t accord with many others (like breach of contract, which doesn’t have “injury, loss or damage” as a material fact.  Second, the knowledge is modified-objective, not purely objective; it’s the knowledge of a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff.

It’s unfortunate that the Court of Appeal continues to treat common law discovery as the same as statutory discovery.  Relatively recent Court of Appeal jurisprudence distinguishing the “claim” form the “cause of action” has been promising (see Apotex and Gillham Bay), but apparently without the impact one might have hoped for.

Then there is this summary of conclusions:

[33] In conclusion:

1. A claim must be brought within two years of a claim being “discovered”.

2. A claim is discovered when the claimant first knew the injury occurred, that it was caused by an act or omission, that the act or omission was caused by the person against whom the claim is made, and that there was loss.

3. The injury was sustained on July 11, 2007, so normally the limitation period would have expired on July 11, 2009.

4. Given that Ms. Rumsam did not turn 18 until June 4, 2010, the presumptive limitation period did not begin to run until that date.

5. The limitation period would have expired on June 4, 2012, but for the discoverability principle.

6. By August 29, 2013 at the latest, Ms. Rumsam knew all of the material facts except the name of the “second clinic physician” in question.

7. By August 29, 2013 at the latest, she was required to exercise reasonable diligence to get the name within the two-year period as she knew she likely had a claim against this person for her injuries, and August 29, 2013 was “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” as set out in s. 5(1)(b) of the Limitations Act.

8. The onus to prove reasonable diligence is on Ms. Rumsam.

9. She failed to exercise reasonable diligence as no steps were taken for at least a year.

10. As such, as the court held in Safai, there is no basis to extend the limitation period for more than two years as, from August 29, 2013, Ms. Rumsam knew of the likely claims and was in a position to ascertain the name by reasonable diligence.

Let’s go through the issues.

  1. A claim must be brought before the expiry of the limitation period, not within two years of discovery. Discovery causes the limitation period to commence, but it’s not determinative of its expiry.  There are multiple circumstances in which the limitation period will stop running—for a example a tolling agreement—so that it will expire more than two years from its commencement.
  2. Discovery does not require knowledge that an injury has occurred and that there was a loss, because for limitations purposes in injury and loss are effectively the same thing. There Limitations Act always refers to “injury, loss or damage”; “injury” never has a separate function from “loss” (which prompts the question why the act uses this language–I suspect it was intended by the drafters to signal that the act applies to all causes of action regardless of whether they require damage to be actionable).  In any event, all that discovery requires with respect to damage is knowledge that “injury, loss or damage” has occurred, so knowledge of injury or loss alone will suffice.
  3. There is no presumptive limitation period. There is basic limitation period in s. 4 that commences presumptively on the date of the act or omission that gives rise to the claim pursuant to s. 5(2). This is because of the “discoverability principle”, not despite it.  Section 5(2) creates a presumption that discovery occurs on the date of the act or omission, which the plaintiff can rebut.  The s. 5 discovery provisions always determine the commencement of the basic limitation period.

 

Ontario: the Court of Appeal leaves determining who discovers a corporation’s claim to another day

In Service Mold + Aerospace Inc. v. Khalaf, the Court of Appeal confronted the question of whose knowledge informs the s. 5 analysis when the plaintiff is a corporation, but without answering it.  This was the second time in 2019 that a court acknowledged that this remains unresolved without resolving it.

[28]      In appealing this finding, the appellant bank focused primarily on its claim that the motion judge erred in principle by using Mr. Schuurman’s abilities and circumstances, instead of those of the corporations. It argues that since the claim belongs to the corporate plaintiffs, the s. 5(1)(b) test should have focused on their abilities and circumstances, not Mr. Schuurman’s.

 [29]      I need not resolve this issue because […].
 The Court also overturned the motion judge’s s. 5 analysis on the basis that it ignored the objective component of the modified-objective test.  It’s a very good critique, and provides a helpful list of the considerations that might inform the test’s application:

[29]      […] in my view, the motion judge clearly erred in applying the modified objective test by conducting a purely subjective inquiry. Rather than imbuing the hypothetical reasonable person with the abilities and circumstances of Mr. Schuurman, she imparted on that person the attitudes and practices of Mr. Schuurman, thereby defeating the objective reasonableness inquiry.

 [30]      She said:
 The reasonable person standard is to be applied taking into account the “abilities” and the “circumstances of the person with the claim”. It seems to me that when the “reasonable person” standard in the context of s. 5(1)(b) is applied in this case, the circumstances of Mr. Schuurman include the organization of his business at the time of the fraud. The organization of the business, and particularly the bookkeeping part of that business, lacked a segregation of duties. Without a segregation of duties as described by Ms. Grogan, the plaintiffs were vulnerable to bookkeeper fraud. To put the analysis another way, the “abilities and circumstances’” of Mr. Schuurman included his overly trusting, perhaps gullible nature and his resultant vulnerability.

[31]      First, an issue in the case was whether the respondent corporations failed to know what they ought to have known, because the bookkeeping part of their business was not monitored as it reasonably should have been. The motion judge begged that question by assuming that a reasonable person would have the same bookkeeping practices as the respondent corporations had. Simply put, in identifying the “circumstances of the person” that the reasonable person will share with the plaintiff, it is an error in principle to infer that the reasonable person would conduct itself in the same way that the plaintiff did. To do so is to eviscerate the objective component of the test. That is what the motion judge did here.

 [32]      Second, s. 5(1)(b) is about knowing what one ought to know. In context, the reasonable person component of s. 5(1)(b) serves to ensure that the plaintiff acted with reasonable levels of prudence and attention in attending to the risk of injury, loss or damage. Because the objective component of the test is modified, the degree of prudence and attention that can reasonably be expected will vary among persons with claims, according to their abilities and circumstances – things such as level of intelligence, education, experience, resources, health, power imbalances, dependence, and situational pressures or distractions that might bear on the ability to appreciate what is happening. It is imperative to remember, however, notwithstanding that the term “abilities” may be wide when viewed in isolation, s. 5(1)(b) requires that once material characteristics are attributed to the reasonable person, that hypothetical person will remain reasonable. If the hypothetical person is imbued with unreasonable imprudence or inattention the objective component of the test is defeated, and only one result can obtain.

Ontario: whose knowledge binds a corporation?

Whose knowledge binds a corporation for the purpose of a s. 5 discovery analysis?

The Superior Court decision in 1511419 Ontario Inc. v. KPMG considers this issue:

[91]           The Defendants dispute that the Minutes of the Board are in fact the “best evidence” of what the Board knew in or around the time of the January 2012 Transaction.

[92]           They submit that a full meeting of the Board is not required for a corporation to acquire knowledge that it would otherwise obtain through its directing minds such as officers or directors: DBDC Spadina Ltd. v. Walton2018 ONCA 60 (CanLII)419 D.L.R. (4th) 409, at paras. 59-60, leave to appeal to S.C.C. allowed, 2018 CarswellOnt 19181Canadian Dredge and Dock Company Limited v. R.1985 CanLII 32 (SCC)[1985] 1 S.C.R. 662, at pp. 679-685, 707-709, 713-714, and 717-718.

[93]           They further go on to submit that it is also not clear what was recorded in the Board or Audit Committee Minutes, and overall the Minutes are not reliable.

[94]           Cash Store responds by submitting that, as a matter of law, the directing mind of a public corporation is its board of directors, acting as a collective: Stern v. Imasco Ltd. (1999), 1999 CanLII 14934 (ON SC)1 B.L.R. (3d) 198 (Ont. S.C.), at paras. 98-113.

[95]           I do not propose to determine this dispute on this motion. I am prepared to accept that the Board Minutes are, at the very least, some evidence of what Cash Store knew at the relevant time periods.

Surprisingly, this significant limitations question remains to my knowledge unanswered.  It seems to me that the answer will be, as it usually is in the context of discovery arguments, “it depends on the facts”.

However, I am also mindful of the policy implications of the issue.  It’s problematic to deem the knowledge of directing minds to be the knowledge of a corporation for discovery purposes.  If an employee discovers a claim, and that discovery does not bind the corporation, the employee could determine when the limitation period commences by determining when to disclose her knowledge of the discovery matters to a directing mind.  This risks encouraging corporations to sit on their rights until they consider it most advantageous to exercise them. A directing mind of a corporation might advise an employee to refrain from disclosing any fraud allegations until confident in the success of a claim arising from them. This would be antithetical to the basic purpose of the limitations scheme to encourage the diligent and timely prosecution of claims.

Lastly, the decision is a warning against asking the court to decide a too-complicated limitations defence on summary judgment:

[113]      I cannot determine this matter in a fair and just manner by way of summary judgment. A review of the aforementioned affidavits and voluminous yet limited record do not provide the adequate context to determine the limitation period dispute. Particularly, I have no meaningful understanding as to the interaction between the parties in and around the time of the January 2012 Transaction that would assist me in determining the limitation issue. I also have no meaningful understanding of the assistance, or lack thereof, the Defendants rendered to Cash Store before, during, or after the January 2012 Transaction closed. The actions involve a complicated factual matrix involving professional negligence and a significant damages claim. In my view, the usual rule enunciated by Nordheimer J.A. in Mason should be followed. A full evidentiary record including viva voce evidence of the parties is required to achieve a fair and just result.

 

Ontario: A defendant’s expertise can impact on discovery even when the defendant isn’t a professional

 

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Presley v. Van Dusen is a reminder that a s. 5 analysis requires making findings with respect to each s. 5(1) discovery matter, and reliance on a defendant’s expertise may delay the appropriateness of a proceeding even when the defendant is not a professional.

This was an appeal from an appeal from a Small Claims Court trial decision.  The trial judge found that he could determine the commencement of the limitation period without considering s. 5(1)(a)(iv):

[9]         The trial judge did not consider the s. 5(1)(a)(iv) criterion as to when the appellants did know or should have known that a proceeding would be an appropriate means to remedy their claim. He gave the following reason for not considering s. 5(1)(a)(iv): “It is not necessary for me to make any determination under that subsection and I do not do so as I only have to find the earliest date and I have no difficulty, as I have said, in finding that that date was the spring of 2013.”

This is plainly an error of law; you can’t determine discovery without considering all four discovery matters.

The Divisional Court nevertheless upheld the trial judge’s decision.  Having determined when a reasonable person ought to have known of the discovery matters pursuant to s. 5(1)(b), it found that there was no requirement for the trial judge to make an explicit finding as to when the plaintiff ought to have known the matter in s. 5(1)(a)(iv).

The Court of Appeal overturned the Divisional Court’s order.  It was an error for the trial judge not to consider s. 5(1)(a)(iv).  The law required the trial judge to consider all four discovery matters:

[14]      The analysis of both the trial judge and the Divisional Court judge of ss. 5(1)(a)(iv), 5(1)(b) and s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act is flawed. The trial judge explicitly stated that he was not considering s. 5(1)(a)(iv). A determination under s. 5(1)(b) as to the date a reasonable person would have discovered the claim requires consideration of all four “matters referred to in clause (a)”. Similarly, the finding that there was insufficient evidence to rebut the presumption under s. 5(2) that the plaintiff knew all the matters referred to in s. 5(1)(a) cannot stand as there was no consideration of s. 5(1)(a)(iv).

[15]      This court has repeatedly held that consideration of when a proceeding was an appropriate means to remedy a claim is an essential element in the discoverability analysis and that failure to consider s. 5(1)(a)(iv) is an error of law: Gillham v. Lake of Bays (Township)2018 ONCA 667 (CanLII)425 D.L.R. (4th) 178, at paras. 33-34Kudwah v. Centennial Apartments2012 ONCA 777(CanLII), at paras. 1-2Har Jo Management Services Canada Ltd. v. York (Regional Municipality)2018 ONCA 469 (CanLII)91 R.P.R. (5th) 1, at paras. 21 and 35.

It’s common for the court to making a determination under s. 5(1)(b) without making explicit findings as to the plaintiff’s knowledge of the discovery matters (though I think everyone benefits from explicit findings).  What makes this case unusual, and something of an outlier, is that the trial judge made this s. 5(1)(b) determination while finding that it was unnecessary to consider one of the discovery matters.  That’s the kind of error that seems especially prevalent in the Small Claims Court.

The Court of Appeal undertook its own s. 5(1)(a)(iv) analysis, which is noteworthy for emphasising that the superior knowledge and expertise that might engage s. 5(1)(a)(iv) is not restricted to strictly professional relationships.  Accordingly, the plaintiffs could reasonably rely on the expertise of a person licensed to install septic systems:

[21]      These principles are applicable to the facts of this case. Van Dusen is licenced to install septic systems. The appellants contracted with him because of his special training and expertise. While the respondents argue he may not qualify as “an expert professional”, there can be no question he did have expertise upon which the appellants reasonably relied.

[22]      Moreover, reliance on superior knowledge and expertise sufficient to delay commencing proceedings is not restricted to strictly professional relationships: Presidential, at para. 26. I acknowledge that the previous cases where this court has made a finding that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to rely on the defendant’s superior knowledge and expertise have concerned defendants belonging to traditional expert professions. For instance, Brown v. Baum2016 ONCA 325 (CanLII)397 D.L.R. (4th) 161, involved a physician, Chelli-Greco v. Rizk2016 ONCA 489 (CanLII), involved a dentist, and Presidential MSH involved an accountant. However, recent Superior Court decisions have applied the superior knowledge and expertise prong of Presidential MSH to persons who are members of non-traditional professions or who are not professionals at all. For instance, in YESCO Franchising LLC v. 2261116 Ontario Inc.2017 ONSC 4273 (CanLII), the court found that s. 5(1)(a)(iv) applied in a franchisor-franchisee relationship where the franchisees relied on the franchisor’s superior knowledge and expertise, even though the franchisor was not a member of an expert profession. Similarly, in Barrs v. Trapeze Capital Corp., 2017 ONSC 5466 (CanLII), aff’d 2019 ONSC 67 (Div. Ct.) (CanLII), the Superior Court and the Divisional Court found that s. 5(1)(a)(iv) applied to investors who relied on the superior knowledge and expertise of their investment portfolio managers.