Ontario: Court of Appeal changes (maybe?) the limitation of claims arising from coverage denials

The Court of Appeal in its decision Nasr Hospitality Services Inc. v. Intact Insurance has held that, at least in the circumstances of the case, the limitation period for a coverage action commences presumptively on the date the insured gives notice of its loss to the insurer.  This is a significant departure from the bar’s understanding, and seemingly at odds with the Court’s decision in Kassburg, and problematic enough that Justice Feldman dissented.  Both the issues and the implications of the decision are significant, so I summarise the facts in some detail.

The plaintiff purchased a commercial insurance policy from Intact. On January 31, 2013, a flood occurred on the plaintiff’s premises.  The Plaintiff notified its broker of its loss, and the broker notified Intact.

On February 13, 2014, Intact confirmed coverage, subject to policy terms and conditions, for the business interruption the plaintiff suffered, and issued a cheque to cover the losses.  Intact issued another cheque in May 2013.

The plaintiff disputed Intact’s valuation of the claim.  On May 13, 2014,  Intact wrote to advise that it would not accept the plaintiff’s valuation.  Subsequently, the plaintiff submitted a proof of loss.  On June 25, 2013, Intact rejected the proof of loss as incomplete, and advised that it was not rejecting or denying the plaintiff’s claim.

The plaintiff filed a further proof of loss on June 26, 2013.  On July 22, 2013, Intact rejected the proof of loss and advised the plaintiff that it would deny any further coverage under the policy.  Curiously, the decision suggests that Intact nevertheless provided the plaintiff with a blank proof of loss form and advised that it had two years from the date of loss to finalise its claim.

It appears from the decision that the plaintiff filed a third proof of loss on July 31, 2013, and that on August 15, 2013, Intact returned rejected that proof of loss.

The plaintiff issued its Statement of Claim on April 22, 2015 seeking damages arising from the coverage denial.  Intact moved for summary judgment on the basis of an expired limitation period.  Intact lost the motion, and appealed.

The parties agreed that the plaintiff’s cause of action arose on February 1, 2013 and the Court of Appeal accepted this agreement as “an admission of fact that February 1, 2013 was the day on which [the plaintiff] first knew the matter in ss. 5(1)(a)(i)-(iii)” of the Limitations Act.  The court found this position was consistent with its decisions in Markel and Schmitz.  Once the insured requests indemnification, the insurer is under a legal obligation to satisfy it.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s s. 5(1)(a)(iv) appropriateness argument.  Though the jurisprudence recognizes that some conduct by an insurer after receiving notification of a claim under a policy can impact on the discovery of a claim, but to apply to in this instance would result in a form of promissory-estoppel, and the plaintiff had conceded that a promissory estoppel was unavailable:

[59]      Nasr has not pointed to any cases involving ordinary claims for indemnification under a commercial policy of insurance that have treated the appropriate means element in s. 5(1)(a)(iv) as some form of watered-down promissory estoppel. To treat s. 5(1)(a)(iv) in that manner for ordinary commercial insurance indemnification claims – as the motion judge effectively did – would risk ignoring the caution voiced by Sharpe J.A. in Markel Insurance, at para. 34 – and echoed by Laskin J.A. in 407 ETR, at para. 47 – that:

To give “appropriate” an evaluative gloss, allowing a party to delay the commencement of proceedings for some tactical or other reason beyond two years from the date the claim is fully ripened and requiring the court to assess to tone and tenor of communications in search of a clear denial would, in my opinion, inject an unacceptable element of uncertainty into the law of limitation of actions[Emphasis added.]

[60]      The motion judge did not find that Intact had promised, expressly or impliedly, not to rely on the limitation period. Accordingly, it was not open to the motion judge to recast, for purposes of the appropriate means analysis, the conduct by Intact that Nasr conceded could not support a finding of promissory estoppel that the insurer would not rely on the limitation period.  With respect, the motion judge erred in doing so.

Justice Feldman dissented.

She rejected that the limitation period should commence on the date of the loss, rather than the breach of the insurance contract:

[65]      In a nutshell, the appellant insurer asked the court to dismiss the insured’s action on the flood insurance policy on the basis that its claim is statute-barred, the claim having been brought more than two years after the flood, referred to as the loss. The problem is that this is not an action against the person who caused the flood. It is an action against the insurer for breach of the insurance policy. Therefore, the triggering event for the discoverability analysis and for the two-year limitation to begin running is the date the insurer breached its obligation under the policy to indemnify the insured for the loss it suffered in the flood.

The insurance policy itself would determine when the obligation to pay arose, and therefore the date on which Intact failed to perform that obligation in breach of the policy.  Because neither party put the policy into evidence, the moving party couldn’t prove when the breach occurred, and therefore when the limitation period commenced:

[65]      In a nutshell, the appellant insurer asked the court to dismiss the insured’s action on the flood insurance policy on the basis that its claim is statute-barred, the claim having been brought more than two years after the flood, referred to as the loss. The problem is that this is not an action against the person who caused the flood. It is an action against the insurer for breach of the insurance policy. Therefore, the triggering event for the discoverability analysis and for the two-year limitation to begin running is the date the insurer breached its obligation under the policy to indemnify the insured for the loss it suffered in the flood.

[65]      In a nutshell, the appellant insurer asked the court to dismiss the insured’s action on the flood insurance policy on the basis that its claim is statute-barred, the claim having been brought more than two years after the flood, referred to as the loss. The problem is that this is not an action against the person who caused the flood. It is an action against the insurer for breach of the insurance policy. Therefore, the triggering event for the discoverability analysis and for the two-year limitation to begin running is the date the insurer breached its obligation under the policy to indemnify the insured for the loss it suffered in the flood.

Further, an agreement between the parties as to when a cause of action arose cannot bind the court:

[72]      However, on appeal, the insurer again asks the court to reject the respondent’s argument, overturn the decision of the motion judge, and grant summary judgment. To grant summary judgment this court must then decide when the cause of action against the insurer for breach of the insurance contract arose, in order to determine when the limitation period commenced to run.

[73]      That is a question of mixed fact and law. The legal part requires the court to determine when the insurer became legally obligated to pay under the policy. The factual part is the determination of when the insurer did not pay in accordance with that obligation. Parties cannot bind the court on legal issues by agreement or concession. For example, in OECTA v. Toronto Catholic District School Board (2007), 2007 CanLII 6454 (ON SCDC)222 O.A.C. 23 (Div. Ct.), Lane J. stated at para. 13:

The fourth difficulty is that the agreement asserted is an agreement not as to the facts, but as to the law. Whether the doctrine of culminating event applies only where the alleged culminating act is culpable is a question of law. Parties cannot agree on the law so as to bind a court or tribunal to their view; the law is the law and it is always open to the tribunal to determine what it is.

Justice Feldman rejected the support the majority found in Markel and Schmitz.  In those cases, the legal obligations of the insurers arose from statute:

[78]      Markel Insurance involved a transfer claim for indemnification by a first party insurer against a second party insurer in the motor vehicle accident context. The claim was governed by the Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. I.8, its regulations, and procedures set out by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. The court had all the information before it that it required to determine when the second insurer’s obligation to indemnify arose and was breached.

[79]      Similarly, in Schmitz, the claim for indemnity at issue was brought within and was governed by the underinsured motorist coverage provided by the OPCF 44R, an optional endorsement to Ontario’s standard form automobile insurance policy.

There are many things that are problematic with this decision, which is perhaps why it is one of the very few limitations decisions to have a dissent. Let’s go through the list:

  1. The foremost flaw is the majority’s ratio that the cause of the action accrued on February 1, 2013 based on the parties’ agreement. Curiously, neither the majority nor the motion judge set out what occurred on February 1, 2013.  Because the majority presumes that the limitation period commenced presumptively on the date of notice of the loss, I assume February 1, 2013 was the date the insured through its broker gave notice of the loss to the insurer.  Markel and Schmitz are only relevant to the majority’s decision if this is so.
  2. It’s hard to understand why the plaintiff would agreed on this point, or why both parties had the misapprehension that cause of action accrual was determinative of the commencement of the limitation period. My guess is that the policy (which mysteriously wasn’t part of the record) contained a provision that the insured had two years from the loss to sue, which is reasonably common.  However, this kind of term has nothing to do with cause of action accrual, it just operates to vary the basic limitation period by making it run in all circumstances from a fixed date.
  3. This decision could have wonky implications. Insurers will undoubtedly rely on it as standing for the principle that the limitation period for a coverage action, certainly when coverage is under a CGL policy but probably also under other policies as well, commences presumptively on the date the insured gives notice of its loss.  This is certainly not the bar’s current understanding as it’s seemingly entirely at odds with the decision in Kassburg. 
  4. Fortunately, it will be possible to distinguish Nasr on the grounds that the limitations analysis flowed from the parties’ agreement as to cause of action accrual, and that such an agreement can have no precedential value. I think this argument will generally prevail, given both Kassburg and the decision’s ambiguity about what happened on February 1, 2013 that resulted in accrual.  However, the right limitations argument very often doesn’t prevail, and I see the potential for a body of dubious caselaw until the CA revisits the issue and, one hopes, distinguishes Nasr into irrelevance.  It’s not helpful that the Nasr court said that Markel and Schmitz supported the parties’ accrual analysis.  It’s easy to imagine a lower court considering that conclusive of the issue.
  5. Lastly, one quibble with the dissent’s statement about cause of action accrual:

[66]      As the moving party on the motion for summary judgment, the insurer had the onus to prove all of the elements that found the basis for its limitation claim, including the date when the cause of action arose, i.e. the date when the act or omission by the insurer caused the injury to the insured: see the definition of “claim” in s. 1 of the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24, Sched. B, and ss. 4 and 5.

The moving party did not bear the onus of establishing when the cause of action arose, but when the Claim arose.  The Limitations Act doesn’t tie the commencement of time to cause of action accrual, and the language “cause of action” doesn’t appear in the Limitations Act.  The cause of action was breach of contract.  A breach of contract is actionable per se and the cause of action doesn’t require damage to accrue.  The Limitations Act, pursuant to s. 2, applies to claims pursued in court proceedings.  Until there is a claim, the Limitations Act won’t apply.  A claim requires both wrongful conduct and resulting damage.  Until there is damage, there is no claim, and without a claim the Limitations Act doesn’t apply.  The limitation period commences presumptively from the date of the act or omission pursuant to s. 5(2), but the precondition to the application of s. 5(2) is the application of the Limitations Act itself, and therefore the occurrence of damage.  Here the point is likely practically of little consequence, as the breach and damage occurred contemporaneously (denial of coverage resulting immediately in the plaintiff being without indemnification for its loss), but conceptually it matters very much.

All of that said, the decision does have a good summary of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) principles:

[46]      In commencing his analysis under s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Act, the motion judge properly noted the general proposition that the determination of when an action is an appropriate means to seek to remedy an injury, loss or damage depends upon the specific factual or statutory setting of each individual case: 407 ETR Concession Company Limited v. Day2016 ONCA 709 (CanLII)133 O.R. (3d) 762, leave to appeal refused, [2016] S.C.C.A. No. 509, at para. 34; Winmill v. Woodstock (Police Services Board)2017 ONCA 962 (CanLII)138 O.R. (3d) 641, leave to appeal to SCC requested, at para. 23.

[47]      However, as this court has observed, that general proposition is not an unbounded one.

[48]      First, in Markel Insurance this court confined the meaning of “appropriate” to “legally appropriate”. Writing for the court, Sharpe J.A. stated, at para. 34:

This brings me to the question of when it would be “appropriate” to bring a proceeding within the meaning of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Limitations Act. Here as well, I fully accept that parties should be discouraged from rushing to litigation or arbitration and encouraged to discuss and negotiate claims. In my view, when s. 5(1)(a)(iv) states that a claim is “discovered” only when “having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy it”, the word “appropriate” must mean legally appropriateTo give “appropriate” an evaluative gloss, allowing a party to delay the commencement of proceedings for some tactical or other reason beyond two years from the date the claim is fully ripened and requiring the court to assess to tone and tenor of communications in search of a clear denial would, in my opinion, inject an unacceptable element of uncertainty into the law of limitation of actions. [Italics in original; underlining added.]

[49]      Second, in 407 ETR, Laskin J.A. noted, at para. 47, that the use of the phrase “legally appropriate” in Markel Insurance, “signified that a plaintiff could not claim it was appropriate to delay the start of the limitation period for tactical reasons, or in circumstances that would later require the court to decide when settlement discussions had become fruitless” (emphasis added).

[50]      Finally, in Presidential MSH Corporation v. Marr Foster & Co. LLP2017 ONCA 325 (CanLII)135 O.R. (3d) 321, Pardu J.A. observed that the jurisprudence discloses two circumstances in which the issue of appropriate means most often delays the date on which a claim was discovered. First, resorting to legal action might be inappropriate in cases where the plaintiff relied on the superior knowledge and expertise of the defendant, especially where the defendant undertook efforts to ameliorate the loss: at para. 26. Second, a legal action might not be appropriate if an alternative dispute resolution process “offers an adequate alternative remedy and that process has not fully run its course”: at para. 29. See also paras. 28-48; and Har Jo Management Services Canada Ltd. v. York (Regional Municipality)2018 ONCA 469 (CanLII), at paras. 21 and 34-35. In this regard, in Winmillthis court held that resort to a civil proceeding for a remedy in respect of damage flowing from an incident might not be an appropriate means while criminal proceedings in respect of the incident remain outstanding: at para. 28.

[51]      Although Presidential MSH does not purport to offer an exhaustive list of circumstances in which a proceeding might not be an appropriate means, I would observe that neither circumstance identified in Presidential MSH is present in this case. Some other factor would have to displace the s. 5(2) presumption that Nasr knew a proceeding was an appropriate means on February 1, 2013.

Ontario: the discovery provisions apply to contribution and indemnity claims

In Mega International Commercial Bank (Canada) v. Yung, the Court of Appeal held that the discovery provisions of the Limitations Act determine the commencement of the limitation period for contribution and indemnity claims.  This is an excellent, sensible decision that resolves one of the last significant (and somewhat inexplicable) uncertainties about the Ontario limitations scheme.

A refresher: Section 4 provides the basic two-year limitation period that commences on when the plaintiff discovers the claim.  Section 5(1) defines when discovery occurs.  Section 5(2) provides a rebuttable presumption that it occurs on the date of the act or omission that gives rise to the claim.  Section 15 provides that the ultimate 15-year limitation period commences on the date of that act or omission.   Section 18 provides that for the purposes of s. 5(2) and s. 15, the date when a plaintiff serves a statement of claim on a defendant is the date of the act omission that gives rise to the defendant’s contribution and indemnity claim against another alleged wrongdoer.

There were two competing constructions of s. 18.  One line of jurisprudence originating from Miaskowski (Litigation Guardian of) v. Persaud held that s. 18 prescribes an absolute two-year limitation period that commences always on the date of service of the statement of claim.  Another line of jurisprudence originating from Demide v. Attorney General of Canada et al.  held that s. 18 merely identifies the presumptive trigger date for the limitation period for contribution and indemnity claims, subject to the s. 5 discovery provisions.

I’ve long argued that Miakowski was plainly wrong, and its continued application was hard to understand.  I noted with some satisfaction the trend toward preferring the Demide construction.

The Court in Mega International essentially adopted the reasoning in Demide.  It applied the principles of statutory interpretation: the words in s .18 interpreted in their grammatical and ordinary sense do not establish an absolute limitation period.  Rather, s. 18 works “hand in glove” with the provisions of s. 5(2) and s. 15 to identify the presumptive limitation period that applies in contribution and indemnity claims.  It is not an exception to the basic limitation period in s. 4, but part of the integrated scheme established by s. 4 and s. 5.

The Court acknowledged the injustice in constructing s. 18 as imposing an absolute limitation period.  It would allow for the possibility of claims becoming statute-barred before they are discoverable.  The Court also noted the absence of any basis for recalibrating the balance between plaintiff and defendant rights the Act strikes for this particular category of claims only.

Ontario: when no investigation is a reasonable investigation

 

Galota v. Festival Hall Developments Limited is a noteworthy, well-reasoned limitations decision from the Court of Appeal holding that in the circumstances, it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have taken no steps to discover her claim for about five years after her injury.

The plaintiff fell off a dance stage at a bar and broke her arm.  She sued the bar and its insurer defended.  The bar then closed, and the bar’s insurer became insolvent.

After learning of the insurer’s insolvency, the plaintiff sued the bar’s landlord.  She argued that she couldn’t have discovered her claim against the landlord until examination for discovery of the bar’s representative.  It was then that she learned the landlord participated in the design and construction of the dance stage from which she fell.

The bar moved for summary judgment to dismiss the action on the basis that it was statute-barred by the expiry of the limitation period.  The bar argued that the claim against it was discoverable well before examinations for discovery.

The motion judge agreed with the plaintiff.  He found that she wasn’t put on notice of the potential involvement of the landlord in the design and construction of the dance floor until examinations for discovery, and didn’t show a want of diligence in investigating the landlord’s potential involvement before then.

On appeal, the landlord challenged the motion judge’s finding that the plaintiff exercised sufficient due diligence on the basis that she took no steps at all to investigate her claim until three and a half years after her accident.  The landlord also challenged the trial judge’s call for expert evidence on the standard of care of a solicitor prosecuting an occupier’s liability claim.

The Court of Appeal upheld the motion judge’s decision.  The Court accepted the plaintiff’s position and held that the expert evidence was not material.

Justice Laskin cited the Court’s decision in Fennell for the principle that 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.  The reasonable steps a plaintiff ought to have taken to discover her claim is merely a consideration in deciding when a claim is discoverable under section 5(1)(b) of the Limitations Act.

The record supported the motion judge’s conclusion that there were no steps the plaintiff reasonably ought to have taken that would have enabled her to discover her claim against the Landlord before her lawyer examined the bar’s representative for discovery:

[24]      In substance, the motion judge found that there were no steps Ms. Galota reasonably ought to have taken that would have enabled her to discover her claim against Festival Hall before her lawyer examined a representative of Republik in November 2009. Some may view the motion judge’s finding to be questionable. But all these cases are very fact-specific. And the motion judge’s finding is a finding of fact, which in my opinion is well supported by the record, and therefore to which we should defer: Burtch, at para. 22; Longo, at para. 38.

Some aspects of Just Laskin’s analysis will be of interest, particularly to the personal injury bar:

  • The plaintiff had no need to pursue the landlord. Her claim against the bar was an insured claim.  The bar’s insurer responded to it and appointed an adjuster to investigate.  Accordingly, the plaintiff “had every reason to believe the insurer would settle her claim or pay any judgment she obtained after a trial […] the need to pursue another party would hardly have seemed reasonable.”  It would have been unreasonable for her to foresee the insurer’s insolvency.
  • While the bar and its insurer had no obligation to notify the plaintiff about the landlord’s potential liability, their failure to do so is a practical consideration in a section 5(1)(b) analysis. The insurer’s adjuster didn’t suggest that the landlord or any other party was potentially liable for her injury.  The bar didn’t allege that the landlord bore any responsibility or take third party proceedings against it.  Prior to examinations for discovery, neither the bar nor the adjuster suggested that there had been renovations to the bar and that the landlord had involvement in them.  The Court adopted Justice Lauwers’s point in Madrid v. Ivanhoe that a naked denial of liability doesn’t trigger a duty on the plaintiff to make further enquiries:

[27]      Second, the insurer’s adjuster never suggested that Festival Hall or any other party was potentially liable for Ms. Galota’s injury. Similarly, in its statement of defence, Republik did not allege Festival Hall bore any responsibility and Republik did not take third party proceedings against Festival Hall or anyone else. Indeed, before the examinations for discovery neither the adjuster nor Republik ever suggested there had been extensive renovations of the nightclub or that Festival Hall was involved in those renovations. I do not suggest either the insurer or Republik had any obligation to notify Ms. Galota about the potential liability of Festival Hall, but their failure to do so is a practical consideration supporting the motion judge’s finding. As Lauwers J. (as he was then) said in Madrid v. Ivanhoe2010 ONSC 2235(CanLII), 101 O.R. (3d) 553, at para. 17:

  • If Ivanhoe’s insurance adjuster had advised the plaintiff that liability was being denied because another party was liable, then the plaintiff’s duty to make further inquiries would have been triggered. But, on the actual facts of this case, a naked denial of liability should not trigger a duty on the plaintiff to make further inquiries.
  • On the date of her injury, the plaintiff couldn’t have known that the landlord was an “occupier” of the bar.  Perhaps the plaintiff’s lawyer should have obtained a title search early in the litigation, but this wouldn’t have determined whether the landlord was an occupier.  This would depend on the terms of its lease with the bar. The lease was not a public document, and the plaintiff had no automatic ability to require the landlord to produce it before litigation. Even if she had obtained the lease earlier in the litigation, she could only have discovered her claim against the landlord when she applied the lease to the facts that the landlord extensively renovated the bar, and the renovations might have breached the Building CodeThe plaintiff only learned of these facts after examinations for discovery.
  • Justice Laskin found that expert evidence is not needed to decide when a claim is discoverable under section 5(1)(b).

Curiously, Justice Laskin described the test in section 5(1)(b) as objective.  This is a departure from the Court’s more accurate description of it as “modified-objective” in Ridel and Ferrara. The “reasonable person” component of the test is modified by the subjective component of “with the abilities and in the circumstances of the claimant.”  Presumably, this was just inadvertence.

The Court’s decision also includes this potentially helpful summary of certain principles of discovery under section 5:

[15]      Three points about these provisions are relevant to the submissions on appeal:

  • Section 5(1)(b) codifies the common law rule of discoverability. If s. 5(1)(b) applies, the two year limitation period will run from a date later than the date the plaintiff was injured.
  • Under s. 5(1)(b), a plaintiff “first ought to have known” of the claim when the plaintiff has enough evidence or information to support an allegation of negligence, including facts about an act or omission that may give rise to a cause of action against a possible tortfeasor: Zapfe v. Barns (2003), 2003 CanLII 52159 (ON CA), 66 O.R. (3d) 397 (C.A.), at paras. 32-33; Burtch v. Barnes Estate (2006), 2006 CanLII 12955 (ON CA), 80 O.R. (3d) 365, at para. 24. The plaintiff cannot delay the start of the limitation period until he or she knows with certainty that a defendant’s act or omission caused the injury or damage: Longo v. MacLaren Art Centre Inc.2014 ONCA 526 (CanLII),323 O.A.C. 246, at para.
  • The rebuttable presumption in s. 5(2) means that a plaintiff has the onus of showing that the rule of discoverability in s. 5(1)(b) applies: Fennell v. Deol2016 ONCA 249(CanLII), at para. 26

 

Ontario: the discovery of solicitor’s negligence claims

Lausen v. Silverman is a well-reasoned decision from the Court of Appeal considering the discovery of a solicitor’s negligence claim.

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident.  She consulted the defendant solicitor, who commenced an action on her behalf against the other driver for damages.  At mediation, the plaintiff followed her solicitor’s advice and settled the tort claim.

The plaintiff continued to suffer from her injuries and asked her solicitor to assist in obtaining statutory accident benefits.  The solicitor asked for a further monetary retainer and their relationship ended.  The plaintiff consulted another a lawyer, and he obtained an psychiatric opinion that the plaintiff’s injuries met the “catastrophic” threshold under the accident benefits regulation.

Almost six years after the settlement of her tort claim, the plaintiff commenced an action against her first solicitor for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty for advising her to accept an improvidently low settlement of the tort claim.

The defendant solicitor moved for summary judgment on the basis that the claim was statute-barred.  The motion judge framed the issue as whether the plaintiff’s claim was discoverable within two years of issuing her statement of claim.  She found that the plaintiff ought to have had the necessary knowledge at the time of the settlement to bring her claim.

Justice Feldman granted the plaintiff’s appeal.  The motion judge erred in her interpretation and application of section 5(1) of the Limitations Act.  The plaintiff did not have knowledge that she had a claim against the defendant until she learned about it from her current counsel based on the medical opinion he obtained.  The opinion was the first indication that the plaintiff’s injuries warranted more compensation than she had received from the settlement.

Whatever facts the plaintiff knew at the time of the settlement, the defendant also knew them, and they did not cause the defendant to consider that the plaintiff might have had a claim against her.  If the defendant considered that she had settled the tort action improvidently, the Rules of Professional Conduct obliged her to advise the plaintiff of the potential error and to notify LawPro.  Advice from a lawyer of an error or omission will in the normal course cause the client to discover the resulting claim against the lawyer, but there was no such advice in this instance.

Meanwhile, it was the plaintiff’s uncontradicted evidence that although she felt that the settlement was unfair after concluding it, she did not know that it was improvident or that she had a claim against her former lawyer until so advised by her new lawyer based on the expert report.  Justice Feldman found that this evidence rebutted the section 5(2) presumption that the plaintiff discovered her claim on the date of the events giving rise to it.

Following the Court of Appeal decision in Ferrara v. Lorenzetti, Justice Feldman found that a reasonable a person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff would not have realized that she had a claim against the defendants when no one, including the defendant, indicated to her that the settlement might have been improvident.

Ontario: the Court of Appeal on due diligence and discoverability

In Fennell v. Deol, the Court of Appeal clarified the role due diligence plays in the discovery analysis.  It’s a fact that informs the analysis, but not a separate and independent reason for dismissing a plaintiff’s claim as statute-barred.

Fennell was in a motor vehicle accident with the defendants.  He claimed against the defendant Shergill, and subsequently amended the statement of claim to add the defendant Deol.  Shergill served a statement of defence and crossclaim against Deol.  Deol moved for summary judgment to dismiss the claim on the basis of an expired limitation period.

Fennell argued that he discovered his claim when he received a medical report and learned that he met the Insurance Act threshold.  Justice Akhtar noted that Fennell’s discovery testimony indicated awareness of the seriousness of his injuries before receiving the report.  For Fennell to rely on discoverability to delay the commencement of the limitation period, Justice Akhtar held that he had to show due diligence in discovering his claim.  Fennell did not show sufficient due diligence, and had he acted diligently, he would have discovered his claim when he commenced his action against Shergill.  Justice Akhtar dismissed Fennell’s claim.

The Court of Appeal allowed Fennell’s appeal.  Justice Akhtar made a counting error (which is very easy for lawyers to do when it comes to limitations, and here I speak from ample experience).  If Fennell ought to have discovered his claim against Deol when he sued Shergill, the claim against Deol was in fact timely.

What makes Justice van Rensburg’s decision interesting is her discussion of Justice Akhtar’s error in focussing primarily on whether Fennell exercised due diligence, and in concluding that Fennel bore the onus to show due diligence to rebut the presumption that the limitation period ran from the date of the accident  (the statutory presumption in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act).  To overcome the presumption, Fennell needed to prove only that he couldn’t reasonably have discovered that he met the statutory threshold on the date of the accident (s. 5(1)(b)), not that he exercised due diligence.

The fact that it wasn’t possible for Fennell to discover that he met the threshold on the date of the accident was enough to rebut the presumption.

Due diligence is the core of an analysis when determining whether to add a defendant to an action after the expiry of the presumptive limitation period (and then the threshold is low), but it is neither a standalone duty nor determinative of the section 5 discovery analysis:

[18]      While due diligence is a factor that informs the analysis of when a claim ought to have reasonably been discovered, lack of due diligence is not a separate and independent reason for dismissing a plaintiff’s claim as statute-barred.

[…]

[23]      Due diligence is not referred to in the Limitations Act, 2002. It is, however, a principle that underlies and informs limitation periods, through s. 5(1)(b). As Hourigan J.A. noted in Longo v. MacLaren Art Centre Inc.2014 ONCA 526 (CanLII), 323 O.A.C. 246, at para. 42, a plaintiff is required to act with due diligence in determining if he has a claim, and a limitation period is not tolled while a plaintiff sits idle and takes no steps to investigate the matters referred to in s. 5(1)(a).

[24]      Due diligence is part of the evaluation of s. 5(1)(b). In deciding when a person in the plaintiff’s circumstances and with his abilities ought reasonably to have discovered the elements of the claim, it is relevant to consider what reasonable steps the plaintiff ought to have taken. Again, whether a party acts with due diligence is a relevant consideration, but it is not a separate basis for determining whether a limitation period has expired.

Ontario: don’t skip the argument

Hawthorne v. Markham Stouffville Hospital is a reminder from the Court of Appeal that a successful discovery argument requires both evidence and an explanation of the evidence’s connection to discovery of the claim.  It seems that filing documents and saying nothing about them won’t carry the day.

Hawthorne was a medical malpractice action.  The respondents moved to dismiss the appellant’s claim as barred by the expiry of the limitation period.  Their position was that the appellant ought to have discovered her claim when she obtained medical records from the respondent.

The motion judge granted summary judgment on the basis that the appellant did not rebut the Limitations Act‘s section 5(2) presumption that she discovered her claim on the date of the act or omission giving rise to it.  The appellant adduced no evidence relating to discoverability to rebut the statutory presumption.

On appeal, the appellant argued that the motion judge erred by failing to give effect to evidence that was available in the motion record, but not referred to in argument.

The Court of Appeal said no:

[8]         We do not give effect to this argument. The failure of the appellants to respond to the summary judgment motion with evidence to rebut the presumption in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act, 2002 is fatal. Pleadings are not evidence. The appellants could not rest on the pleading of a timely discovery date in their third action, when confronted by a motion for summary dismissal based on the limitations argument.

[9]         The two receipts that were in the record (as part of the respondents’ materials), even if drawn to the attention of the motion judge, without any further evidence or explanation, could not have affected the result. Even if it might be reasonable to conclude that the appellants received medical records on the dates shown in the receipts for payment, this was not sufficient to overcome the statutory presumption. The receipts alone do not advance the appellants’ discoverability argument, in the absence of any explanation by Ms. Hawthorne linking what was in the records to the discovery of her claim.

Ontario: amending a pleaded date of discovery (you can do it)

Here’s a novel limitations issue.  A plaintiff intends to plead that he discovered his claim within the limitation period, but inadvertently pleads that he discovered it on an earlier date so that the claim is statute-barred.  Is the plaintiff entitled to amend the Statement of Claim to plead the correct date, assuming there’s no noncompensable prejudice to the defendant, or is he in effect amending to add a statute-barred claim?

Master Pope held in Islam v. Tadin that it’s just a regular amendment, and the defendant who doesn’t consent to it wrongly seeks advantage from another lawyer’s slip (i.e., a jerk).

The plaintiff’s Statement of Claim in Islam pleaded that he discovered his claim against the defendants in June 2011.  This meant that the limitation period expired in June 2013 and before he issued the Statement of Claim.

The defendants’ pleaded a limitations defence.  Immediately after service of the Statement of Defence, the plaintiff advised defence counsel that the date of discovery pleaded in the Statement of Claim was a factual error.  The plaintiff served a proposed amended Statement of Claim, but the defendants refused their consent to the amendment.

The defendants’ position was that the plaintiff wasn’t entitled to amend his pleading to bring the claim within the limitation period.  Just as the expiry of a limitation period gives rise to a presumption of prejudice, an amendment that makes a statute-barred claim timely gives rise to the same presumption of prejudice.  The expiry of the presumptive limitation period in section 5(2) of the Limitations Act gave rise to a further presumption of prejudice.

If there was any logic to these arguments, it’s hard to tell from the decision.  One senses that Master Pope wasn’t impressed with them, noting with what I imagine was some irritation that “a great deal of material was filed and time spent on the defendants’ submissions”.  In any event, Master Pope rejected them.

The plaintiff was not seeking to add claim beyond the limitation period, or even a claim at all.   The issue of the expired limitation period arose when the plaintiff served the Statement of Claim, not because of the proposed amendments.  The amendment did not engage section 5(2) at all.  The presumptive limitation period wasn’t at issue, but when the plaintiff pleaded he had subjectively discovered the claim.

Master Pope also took note of the circumstances of the motion. Plaintiff’s counsel immediately sought consent for the amendment.  The plaintiff filed an uncontested affidavit stating that the date of discovery pleaded in the Statement of Claim was unintentional and incorrect.  In her view, the motion “was unnecessary given the mandatory wording of rule 26.01 and the fact that there was no case law to support the defendants’ position.  She awarded substantial indemnity costs against the defendant.

Ontario: discovery applies to the limitation period for crossclaims

Justice Leach’s decision in Demide v. Attorney General of Canada et al. holds that the limitation period applicable to claims for contribution and indemnity is subject to discoverability.  This departs from the jurisprudence, which generally considers this to be a fixed two-year limitation period beginning on the date of service of the plaintiff’s claim.

Section 18(1) of the Limitations Act provides when this limitation period begins:

(1) For the purposes of subsection 5 (2) and section 15, in the case of a claim by one alleged wrongdoer against another for contribution and indemnity, the day on which the first alleged wrongdoer was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought shall be deemed to be the day the act or omission on which that alleged wrongdoer’s claim is based took place.

Prior to this decision, I would have said that it was settled that this provision provides a two year limitation period for bringing crossclaims, running from deemed discovery on the date of the claim’s service, and not subject to extension by application of the section 5 discovery provisions.   As Justice Leach notes, this is the position of many of his colleagues on the Superior Court, including Justice Perell who articulated it eloquently in Miaskowski v. Persaud:

[81]           Pursuant to s. 18 of the Limitations Act, a claim for contribution and indemnity is deemed to be discovered on the date upon which the “first alleged wrongdoer was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought,” and with this deeming provision, the limitation period expires two years after the date on which the claim is served.

Justice Perell’s analysis in Miaskowski turned on the language of section 18.  The word “deemed” is a declarative legal concept that is a “firmer or more certain assertion of discovery” than the rebuttable presumption of discovery contained within section 5(2).  Further, section 18 does not contain the moderating language “unless the contrary is proved” present in section 5(2), i.e. a person discovers a claim on the date of the act or omission unless she proves the contrary.

Justice Leach disagreed.  His reasoning also starts with the language of section 18.  In his view, approaching section 18 as a self-contained deeming provision ignores its opening words.  Those words provide expressly that the provision was enacted for “the purposes of subsection 5(2) and 15”, that is, to inform and dictate the meaning of those subsections.  When applying section 5(2) to claims for contribution and indemnity, section 18(1) dictates that the presumed commencement date for the two year limitation is the date of service of the claim for which contribution and indemnity is sought.  The defendant can rebut this presumption by proving the contary.

The reference to section 15, the ultimate limitation period, reinforces this conclusion.  If section 18 is an absolute two-year limitation period beginning on a fixed date, section 15 could have no application.  Only if the section 5 discovery provisions can delay the beginning of the limitation period is there need for an ultimate limitation period.

This is a very compelling analysis, and I’m persuaded that it’s correct even if it’s currently an outlier–the Court continues to deliver decisions like this one (see paragraph 58) based on section 18 being a fixed limitation period.  It will be interesting to see how the Court of Appeal determines the issue should it come before it.  I don’t expect that it will; it’s surely the rare case where a defendant through reasonable diligence can’t discover a crossclaim within two years of service of the plaintiff’s claim.

Should you be interested, these are the relevant paragraphs from Justice Leach’s decision:

 

[87]           […]  With great respect, I disagree with that view, as it seems to approach section 18 as if it were a self-contained deeming provision, and ignores the opening words of s.18(1).  In my opinion, those words make it clear that section 18 was not intended to operate as a “stand alone” limitation period, with independent application, or a provision to be viewed and read separately and in contrast to s.5(2).  Rather, section 18 expressly was enacted “For the purposes of subsection 5(2) and 15”, [emphasis added]; i.e., to inform and dictate the meaning to be given to certain concepts referred to in ss.5(2) and 15, when applying those sections.  In particular, when applying s.5(2) to claims for contribution and indemnity, s.18(1) dictates that the “day [of] the act or omission” referred to in s.5(2) shall be the day on which the first alleged wrongdoer was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought.  Subsection 18(1) thereby dictates the relevant presumed starting point for the basic two year limitation period, in relation to the operation of s.5(2); a presumption that is still capable of being rebutted by proof to the contrary, pursuant to the provisions of s.5(2).  In particular, I see nothing in the language of s.18(1) that displaces or alters the natural meaning to be given to the other language of s.5(2).  Section 18 itself does not have or require language of presumption or proof to the contrary, in relation to operation of the basic limitation period, but this is because its inclusion in section 18 would have been unnecessary and redundant, given that such wording already is found in s.5(2), with which it is expressly and inextricably linked.  In my opinion, reading s.18(1) in conjunction with s.5(2), as the legislation intended, and substituting into s.5(2) only those concepts whose substitution is dictated by s.18(1), one finds that s.5(2) effectively reads as follows in relation to claims for contribution and indemnity:  “An alleged wrongdoer with a claim against another alleged wrongdoer for contribution and indemnity shall be presumed to have known of the matters referred to in clause 5(1)(a) on the day on which the first alleged wrongdoer was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought,unless the contrary is proved.”  [Emphasis added.]   The presumption applicable to such claims is therefore rebuttable, not conclusive.

 

Moreover, that conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the opening words of s.18(1) refer not only to s.5(2) but also to section 15; i.e., the “ultimate limitation period” of 15 years.  As with s.5(2), s.18(1) informs and dictates the meaning to be given to certain concepts referred to in section 15.  In particular, s.18(1) informs the meaning to be given to “the day on which the act or omission on which the claims is based took place”, for the purposes of s.15(2).  In my opinion, reading s.15(2) in conjunction with s.18(1), as the legislation intended, and substituting into s.15(2) only those concepts whose substitution is dictated by s.18(1), one finds that s.15(2) effectively reads as follows, in relation to claims for contribution and indemnity:  “No proceeding shall be commenced in respect of any claim for contribution and indemnity after the 15th anniversary of the day on which the first alleged wrongdoer was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought”.   I fail to understand how s.18(1) can be interpreted as creating a conclusive and “absolute” two year limitation period for contribution and indemnity claims, running from the date on which the first alleged wrongdoer was served with the underlying claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought, when the legislature clearly contemplated the possibility that the operation of section 15 might be required to put an end to such possible claims fifteen years after service of the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought.  In my opinion, the obvious conclusion is that the legislature thought section 15 might be needed in relation to claims for contribution and indemnity for the same reason section 15 might be needed in relation to other claims; i.e., because operation of the applicable limitation period might be extended beyond the contemplated two year basic limitation period by considerations of discoverability.

 

[88]         Second, I cannot and do not disagree with Justice Perell’s view that an absolute two year limitation period for contribution and indemnity, (with no allowance whatsoever for possible lack of discoverability, even when capable of proof), would provide certainty and efficiency, which was definitely one of the policies underlying the reforms introduced in the Limitations Act, 2002, supra.   However, one could say that in relation to making any limitation period absolute.  As Justice Sharpe emphasized in Canaccord Capital Corp. v. Roscoe, supra, at paragraph 17, the overall goal of the legislation was the creation of a clear and comprehensive scheme for addressing limitation issues that would balance a defendant’s need for certainty with the plaintiff’s right to sue.  A review of the legislation suggests that, with indicated exceptions, the Legislature generally tried to strike that balance by imposition of a presumptive two year limitation period, capable of extension by demonstrable lack of discovery, (proof of which was the obligation of the claimant).  Although the legislature clearly felt that claims for contribution and indemnity warranted a measure of exceptional treatment, to encourage resolution of all claims arising from the wrong at the same time, it seems to me that the approach chosen by the legislature in that regard was the introduction of a modified presumption; i.e., one that moved the presumed starting date of the basic two year limitation period forward considerably, (from the much later starting dates permitted under the previous legislation), to the date on which the party seeking contribution and indemnity was served with the claim in respect of which contribution and indemnity is sought.  Such a party, who fails to approach the possibility of contribution and indemnity claims with due diligence during the ensuing presumptive two year limitation period, from that much earlier date, does so at that party’s considerable peril.  However, I see nothing in the legislation that suggests the legislature intended to go an extra step; i.e., by absolutely precluding any possibility whatsoever of an extension of time for a party capable of proving that a contemplated claim for contribution and indemnity was indeed incapable of being discovered, even with reasonable due diligence, within two years of the party being served with a statement of claim.  As emphasized by our Court of Appeal in Pepper v. Zellers Inc.2006 CanLII 42355 (ON CA), [2006] O.J. No. 5042 (C.A.), the discoverability principle ensures that a person “is not unjustly precluded from litigation before he or she has the information to commence an action provided that the person can demonstrate he or she exercised reasonable or due diligence to discover the information”.  In my view, the court should be reluctant to adopt a legislative interpretation that effectively permits the possibility of such an injustice, unless that is the outcome clearly dictated by the legislation.   As demonstrated by the ultimate limitation period provisions of section 15, the legislature has the ability to make such an intention quite clear, when it has that intention.

 

[89]         Third, I similarly do not disagree with Justice Perell’s view that it would be a rare case that a defendant, exercising due diligence within two years of being served with a claim, would not know the parties against whom to claim contribution and indemnity.  However, rarity is not impossibility, and in my view, the rarity of such a possibility underscores the somewhat modest concession to fairness, (from a claimant’s point of view), of the Legislature making the limitation period for contribution and indemnity claims subject to discoverability.

Update: Miaskowski was appealed, but on unrelated issues.

Ontario: Justice Perell on the interaction of the Insurance Act and the Limitations Act

In Farhat v. Monteanu, Justice Perell provides a typically thorough analysis of the interaction between the Insurance Act‘s section 267.5 threshold provisions and the limitation period.

The plaintiff sued for damages for his non-pecuniary injuries from a motor vehicle accident. The defendant pleaded a limitations defence and the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment to defeat it.

The defendant ventured a novel defence. She argued that pursuant to section 5(2) of the Limitations Act, there is a presumption that a claimant discovers a motor vehicle accident claim when the accident occurs.  Because the plaintiff’s lawyer stated that the plaintiff’s injuries were serious in correspondence to the defendant eight days after the accident, this presumption was rebuttable only by the lawyer’s direct evidence that he delayed issuing the claim within two years of the accident because he wanted medical confirmation that the serious injury met the section 267.5  threshold.

No case law supported the defendant’s argument, and Justice Perell held that the jurisprudence “about the effect of the threshold on the running of limitation periods stands strongly against” it:

[27]           There is no onus on a plaintiff to prove or show: (a) that the limitation period was considered and a conscious decision made not to commence an action; (b) that a procedure was put in place to review the conscious decision at some reasonable point in the future; and (c) that a decision was made when additional information was obtained and counsel moved expeditiously.

[28]           Whether all this demonstration of what the lawyer must show “ought” to be the case is neither here nor there, because what “is” the case under the law about the running of limitation periods is that when an action is not commenced within two years after the accident the only onus on the plaintiff is to show that he or she could not have discovered the case during the period of delay before commencing the action […].

[29]           Mr. Farhat’s claim is apparently based on chronic pain becoming a permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function. Much to the dismay of insurance companies of defendants, almost invariably, it will take several months to determine whether ongoing pain suffered as a result of an accident is a permanent serious impairment. It will typically, almost invariably, be the case that a plaintiff with only a chronic pain claim will not know that the claim surpasses the Insurance Act threshold until sometime after the date of the accident.

[…]

[31]           Given the statutory presumption that a limitation period begins to run from the date of the accident, the onus is on the plaintiff to persuade the court that the seriousness of his or her injury was not discoverable within the applicable limitation period and the plaintiff must also persuade the court that he or she acted with due diligence to discover if there was a cause of action: Yelda v. Vu, 2013 ONSC 4973 (CanLII) at paras. 29-30.

[32]           In Everding v. Skrijel, 2010 ONCA 437 (CanLII), approving Vosin v. Hartin, [2000] O.T.C. 931 (S.C.J.), the Court of Appeal held that in applying the discoverability principle of the Limitations Act, 2002, the court should consider the threshold requirements of the Insurance Act, and the Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff will not have discovered his or her claim before he or she knows they have a substantial chance to succeed in recovering a judgment for damages. A person cannot be expected to commence an action before he or she knows that the necessary elements as set out in the legislation can be established on the evidence: Hoffman v. Jekel, 2011 ONSC 1324 (CanLII) at para. 9.

[33]           In Lawless v. Anderson, 2011 ONCA 102 (CanLII), the Ontario Court of Appeal stated at para. 23:

  1. Determining whether a person has discovered a claim is a fact-based analysis. The question to be posed is whether the prospective plaintiff knows enough facts on which to base an allegation of negligence against the defendant. If the plaintiff does, then the claim has been “discovered”, and the limitation period begins to run: see Soper v. Southcott (1998), 1998 CanLII 5359 (ON CA), 39 O.R. (3d) 737 (C.A.) and McSween v. Louis (2000), 2000 CanLII 5744 (ON CA), 132 O.A.C. 304 (C.A.).

[34]           When a limitation period defence is raised, the onus is on the plaintiff to show that its claim is not statute-barred and that it behaved as a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances using reasonable diligence in discovering the facts relating to the limitation issue: Durham (Regional Municipality) v. Oshawa (City), 2012 ONSC 5803 (CanLII) at paras. 35-41; Bolton Oak Inc. v. McColl-Frontenac Inc., 2011 ONSC 6657 (CanLII) at paras. 12-14; Bhaduria v. Persaud (1985), 1998 CanLII 14846 (ON SC), 40 O.R. (3d) 140 (Gen. Div.). The limitation period runs from when the prospective plaintiff has, or ought to have had, knowledge of a potential claim and the question is whether the prospective plaintiff knows enough facts to base a cause of action against the defendant, and, if so, then the claim has been discovered and the limitation period begins to run: Lawless v. Anderson, supra at para. 23; Soper v. Southcott (1998), 1998 CanLII 5359 (ON CA), 39 O.R. (3d) 737 (C.A.); McSween v. Louis, 2000 CanLII 5744 (ON CA), [2000] O.J. No. 2076 (C.A.); Gaudet v. Levy (1984), 1984 CanLII 2047 (ON SC), 47 O.R. (2d) 577 at p. 582 (H.C.J.).

[35]           In some limitation period summary judgment motions, it may be necessary to demonstrate the time at which a plaintiff acting reasonably knew about his or her claim, but this motion is not one of those motions. For the purposes of the motions in the case at bar, for Mr. Farhat to rebut the presumption found in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act, he need only show that he could not have discovered his chronic pain claim during the period between the date of the accident, May 18, 2006 and June 18, 2006 (two years before the date the action was commenced), which I am satisfied he has done.

[36]           Perhaps ironically, because s. 267.5 (5) of the Insurance Act was introduced to eliminate minor personal injury claims, its effect has also been to protect such claims from the running of a limitation period for a period of time commensurate with how long it would take a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff to have discovered that the threshold for a claim has been surpassed.

[37]           A simple comparison between Mr. Farhat’s automobile accident claim and a slip and fall case demonstrates why the operation of s. 267.5 on limitation periods rankles the insurance defence bar. Visualize, if Mr. Farhat had gotten out of his parked van and slipped and fell on a sidewalk in disrepair, there would be no waiting for a medical report and the limitation period for his occupier’s liability claim would immediately have commenced to run.

[38]           The law, however, for the discovery of slip and fall claims is not affected by s. 267.5 of the Insurance Act. Section 267.5, however, does influence the running of limitation periods for motor vehicle accident non-pecuniary claims.

[39]           No doubt much to the chagrin of the defence bar, s. 267.5 (5) of the Insurance Act introduces some slack into the apparent rigidity of the presumption found in s. 5(2) of the Limitations Act, 2002. A plaintiff, and in some instances his or her negligent lawyer, can take comfort from this slack because the limitation period only begins to run when a sufficient body of information is available to determine whether the plaintiff has a claim that may meet the threshold. In this regard, I adopt the observations of Justice Langdon in Ioannidis v. Hawkings (1998), 1998 CanLII 14822 (ON SC), 39 O.R. (3d) 427 at pp. 433-434 (Gen. Div.), where he stated:

… [N]o one can seriously argue that the decision whether a particular injury meets the statutory criteria is an easy one or, perhaps more important, that it will be easy to predict the outcome of a motion to dismiss a claim which the defendant asserts is unworthy. Even in such a motion, the onus is upon the plaintiff to demonstrate that his or her injuries meet the statutory criteria. When one is seeking to apply the discoverability rule to the plaintiff in a case such as this, it behooves the court to grant a degree of latitude to a plaintiff before declaring that the limitation period has begun to run. … In practical terms, the question is not whether the plaintiff believes that her injury meets the criteria but whether there is 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. When such a body of material has been accumulated, then and only then should the limitation begin to run. This is not to say that the plaintiff is entitled to wait until he or she has an overwhelming case. It is only to say that the court must afford a degree of latitude to a plaintiff in making this very individual and complicated determination.

I have one quibble with this otherwise excellent decision.  The statement in paragraph 34 that a plaintiff discovers her claim when she “knows enough facts to base a cause of action against the defendant” is incorrect. A plaintiff subjectively discovers her claim on the date she knows each of the facts listed in section 5(1)(a) of the Limitations Act, including that a proceeding is an appropriate remedy (which is not a fact that bases a cause of action).

For the same reason, while there is a presumption that the limitation period begins on the date of a slip and fall accident pursuant to section 5(2) of the Limitations Act, it doesn’t necessarily commence on that date. It may be that the plaintiff can only reasonably discover that the claim is the appropriate remedy on a later date, and because the section 5(1)(a) criteria are conjunctive, the limitation period will not commence until this later date.  It’s simply wrong to analyse the commencement of the limitation period based on the accrual of a cause of action. (Consider this a second salvo in my fight against on diminishing the impact of Lawless on limitations jurisprudence).