Ontario: Court of Appeal on raising a limitations defence for the first time on appeal

In Vellenga v. Boersma, the Court of Appeal provides a reminder that you raise a limitations defence for the first time on appeal at your peril:

[41]      Finally, the appellants argue that Mr. Vellenga’s claim was statute-barred under s. 4 of the Real Property Limitations Act, which creates a ten-year limitation period for an action to recover land: Waterstone Properties Corporation v. Caledon (Town)2017 ONCA 62364 M.P.L.R. (5th) 179, at para. 31. Since Mr. Vellenga became aware that Weijs Investment owned the Boundary Lake Property as of 2004 at the latest, the appellants argue that his trust claim in 2015 was commenced after the expiry of the limitation period.

[42]      As this argument is being put forth for the first time on appeal, this court must consider whether or not to grant leave to allow the argument to be heard: Kaiman v. Graham2009 ONCA 77245 O.A.C. 130, at para. 18.
[43]      The decision to grant leave is discretionary. Appellate courts will not generally entertain entirely new issues on appeal, as “it is unfair to spring a new argument upon a party at the hearing of an appeal in circumstances in which evidence might have been led at trial if it had been known that the matter would be an issue on appeal”: Kaiman, at para. 18. The court’s discretion is to be “guided by the balancing of the interests of justice as they affect all parties”: at para. 18.
[44]      In my view, it would not be in the interests of justice to grant leave. Mr. Vellenga first commenced his application in 2004 and later amended his claim in 2015 to specifically include a trust claim. The application was not heard until 2018. The appellants had more than enough time to consider and raise this argument. They provided no persuasive reason to explain their failure to do so.
[45]      Furthermore, this court has explained that “[t]he expiry of a limitation period does not render a cause of action a nullity; rather, it is a defence and must be pleaded”: Beardsley v. Ontario (2001), 2001 CanLII 8621 (ON CA)57 O.R. (3d) 1 (C.A.), at para. 21. While this matter was commenced by way of application and did not involve formal pleadings, the key point is that the limitation argument was not raised at any time prior to this appeal.

Ontario: confusion in the Court of Appeal on the historical limitation of demand obligations

The Court of Appeal decision in Michel v. Spirit Financial Inc. includes the following paragraph that compels me to pedantry:

[14]      The trial judge made a finding of fact that all the advances made by Michel to Kramer and Spirit were loans. The loans were advanced from 2000 to 2009, during which time the Limitations ActR.S.O. 1990, c. L.15 was largely replaced by the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24, Sched. B. On January 1, 2004 the basic limitation period for demand loans was changed from six years from the date of the loan to two years from the date of the demand: Hare v. Hare2006 CanLII 41650 (ON CA)83 O.R. (3d) 766 (C.A.), at para. 11 and Limitations Act, 2002, at s. 5.

Here are the issues:

  1. The Limitations Act didn’t change the limitation of demand loans when it came into force on January 1, 2004. Section 5(3) wasn’t present in the initial version of the Limitations Act, which didn’t address the discovery of a claim arising from demand obligations at all.The Court cites Hare, but Hare actually holds that, under the version of the Limitations Act in force when it was decided, a demand obligation was actionable as of the funds being advanced and not the date of the demand.  This was manageable under the Former Act, which applied a six-year limitation period, but it’s problematic with a two-year limitation period.  This caused the Legislature to amend the Limitations Act in 2008 to add s. 5(3), which makes presumptive discovery of a claim arising from a demand loan the date of the demand for repayment.

    Frankly, it’s surprising that the Court would misstate the development of the law so materially.

  1. It’s misleading to say that the Limitations Act “largely” replaced the Former Act. The Limitations Act and the RPLA together entirely replaced the Former Act.  To be fair, the RPLA is Part I of the Former Act repackaged, and in that sense the Limitations Act only partially replaced the Former Act.  Nevertheless, this statement suggests that some part of the Former Act remains in force.  It doesn’t.

Ontario: Court of Appeal narrows the s. 5(1)(a)(iv) “alternative process” principle

The Court of Appeal decision in Beniuk v. Leamington (Municipality) is an important addition to s. 5(1)(a)(iv) appropriateness jurisprudence.

It has become popular to argue that an alternative dispute resolution process with a clear and identifiable conclusion delays the appropriateness of a civil proceeding as a remedy, and therefore discovery of a claim.  Beniuk holds that this isn’t the law: whether an alternative process impacts on appropriateness is a question of fact that the plaintiff must prove.

The appellant in Beniuk argued that the Court of Appeal’s decision in 407 ETR stands for the principle that when there is an alternative dispute resolution process, an action becomes an appropriate remedy only when the alternative process concludes.  It followed that that the limitation period or the appellant’s action didn’t not run until the OMB confirmed that it did not have jurisdiction over its cause of action: if the OMB assumed jurisdiction, there would have been no need for the action; therefore, the OMB hearing was an alternative process that until concluded rendered an action inappropriate.

Nope, held the court.

A limitation period doesn’t run whenever there is an ongoing alternative process.  Whether an alternative process delays the running of time turns on the particular facts of each case.  Evidence is necessary to explain the basis for pursuing the alternative process rather than commencing a proceeding.

[60]      407 ETR does not stand for a general principle that a limitation period will not begin to run whenever an alternative process that might resolve the matter has not yet run its course. It is a matter of evidence. Indeed, Laskin J.A. noted, at para. 34, that when an action is “appropriate” will depend on the specific factual or statutory setting of each individual case, and that case law applying s. 5(1)(a)(iv) is of limited assistance because each case will turn on its own facts. In 407 ETR, the court considered the evidence on the motion about the statutory scheme and the effectiveness of the administrative process before deciding that it would be reasonable for such a process to run its course before a civil proceeding was appropriate.

[61]      Recently, several cases considering the application of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) have come before this court. The court has emphasized, echoing the words of Laskin J.A. in 407 ETR, that when a proceeding is appropriate will turn on the facts of each case: see, for example, Nelson v. Lavoie2019 ONCA 43147 C.C.P.B. (2d) 1, at para. 25, and Ridel v. Goldberg, 2019 ONCA 636436 D.L.R. (4th) 453, at para. 71.

[62]      This case did not involve an alternative process available under a statutory scheme. It did, however, involve an alternative process that the appellants were pursuing, as in 407 ETR, against the same party.

[63]      The fact that a plaintiff chooses to pursue an alternative process does not in itself suspend the running of the limitation period under s. 5(1)(a)(iv). Whether an alternative process will have this effect will depend on the particular factual circumstances and the evidence before the court in determining the limitations issue. In this case, there was no evidence to explain why the appellants chose to pursue the OMB route rather than commencing both an OMB proceeding and a civil action.

[74]      As I have already observed, 407 ETR does not stand for the general principle that it will always be appropriate to wait until another process has run its course before commencing a civil action in respect of a claim which has otherwise been “discovered” under s. 5(1)(a)(i), (ii) and (iii). It is incumbent on a party asserting that it was reasonable to pursue a claim in another forum to explain why this approach was reasonable. That is what occurred, and was ultimately successful, in the 407 ETR case.

[75]      While one of the principles recognized in connection with s. 5(1)(a)(iv) is the deterrence of unnecessary litigation, a plaintiff is not entitled in all cases to pursue one route, and to expect the limitation period to be tolled in respect of any other claim it may have in respect of its loss or damage. Said another way, s. 5(1)(a)(iv) does not permit a party to engage in litigation in stages for the same wrong. An example is Lilydale Cooperative Limited v. Meyn Canada Inc.2019 ONCA 761439 D.L.R. (4th) 385, where this court considered the submission that a limitation period in respect of a third party claim in Ontario was suspended while the defendant was seeking to establish that Alberta was the correct forum for the litigation. Feldman J.A. rejected the argument that it was not legally appropriate to commence a legal proceeding while another resolution process that might resolve the matter was ongoing. She held that such an interpretation of “appropriate” was inconsistent with the purpose of the Limitations Act and could extend the limitation period well beyond the two-year threshold in an uncertain and unpredictable manner. There were also no significant savings to be achieved by not commencing the third party claim until the forum challenge was complete.

Here, the OMB wasn’t an alternative process, but an alternative forum, and the availability of multiple forums doesn’t impact on discovery because the law deems a party to know the applicable legal principles (that is, which forum is correct):
[70]      While I can appreciate why the appellants may have thought they had a claim for injurious affection, it has always been a principle of limitations law that a plaintiff knows, or could by the exercise of reasonable diligence, determine what legal principles apply. See, for example, Boyce v. Toronto Police Services Board2011 ONSC 53, aff’d: 2012 ONCA 230, leave to appeal refused: [2012] S.C.C.A. No. 265, where Low J. stated, at para. 23:
Section 5(1)(a)(iv) does not import an idiosyncratic limitation period calibrated by the claimant’s familiarity with or ignorance of the law. The test is an objective one. While it is possible to envisage that a new kind of right might arise that has not been hitherto protected, thus making it arguable that a civil proceeding might not be seen objectively as an appropriate means to seek to remedy, a battery causing personal injury is a classic example of the kind of wrong that is appropriate for redress by court action. A citizen is presumed to know the law of the land. [Emphasis added.]

This strikes me as a material and reasonable narrowing of the s. 5(1)(a)(iv) “alternative dispute resolution process” principle.  Whether an alternative process impacts on discovery is a question of fact, and the plaintiff will need to establish that it was reasonable in the circumstances to allow the process to complete before commencing a proceeding.  This should discourage some of the more creative alternative process arguments, of which I see many.

Also noteworthy is the confirmation that an action in nuisance or negligence for damages relating to real property is “an action to recover land” for the purpose of RPLA and subject to its ten-year limitation period:

[42]      Subsection 2(1)(a) of the Limitations Act provides that the Limitations Act does not apply to proceedings to which the RPLA applies. Section 4 of the RPLA provides for a ten-year limitation period for an action to recover land:

 No person shall make an entry or distress, or bring an action to recover any land or rent, but within ten years next after the time at which the right to make such entry or distress, or to bring such action, first accrued to some person through whom the person making or bringing it claims, or if the right did not accrue to any person through whom that person claims, then within ten years next after the time at which the right to make such entry or distress, or to bring such action, first accrued to the person making or bringing it.

[43]      When the elements that do not apply to this case are removed, s. 4 provides that “no person shall bring an action to recover any land, but within ten years after the time at which the right to bring any such action first accrued to the person bringing it.” The issue here is whether the appellants’ claim is an “action to recover land” within the meaning of the RPLA.

 [44]      The appellants point to the definition of “land” in s. 1 of the RPLA:
 “land” includes messuages and all other hereditaments, whether corporeal or incorporeal, chattels and other personal property transmissible to heirs, money to be laid out in the purchase of land, and any share of the same hereditaments and properties or any of them, any estate of inheritance, or estate for any life or lives, or other estate transmissible to heirs, any possibility, right or title of entry or action, and any other interest capable of being inherited, whether the same estates, possibilities, rights, titles and interest or any of them, are in possession, reversion, remainder or contingency; [Emphasis added.]

[45]      They rely on the term “messuages”, which refers to a dwelling house, its outbuildings, the area immediately surrounding the dwelling, and the adjacent land appropriate to its use: McConnell v. Huxtable2014 ONCA 86118 O.R. (3d) 561, at para. 14. The appellants also parse out and rely on the phrase “any…right…of…action”. Putting these pieces together, the appellants submit that an “action to recover land” includes an action to recover rights that run with the land, and that a cause of action for nuisance is tied to and arises out of the right to use and enjoy land without substantial interference. Accordingly, the appellants submit that a cause of action for nuisance is an incorporeal or intangible right that runs with the property and is captured by the definition of “land” in the RPLA. They point to a passage in Equitable Trust Co. v. 2062277 Ontario Inc.2012 ONCA 235109 O.R. (3d) 561, where Perell J. (sitting on this court ad hoc) stated that the RPLA is intended to cover actions “affecting” land: Equitable Trust, at para. 28.

 [46]      I do not accept the appellants’ submission. There is no support in the jurisprudence that an action in nuisance or negligence for damages relating to real property is “an action to recover land” for the purposes of the RPLA. That land or real property is involved in an action does not mean that the RPLA applies: Harvey v. Talon International Inc.2017 ONCA 267137 O.R. (3d) 184, at paras. 51-52. Typically, actions to recover land seek to assert property rights. And Perell J.’s remark from Equitable Trust that the RPLA covers actions “affecting” land has been commented on specifically by this court, and later by Perell J. himself, as a statement that should be interpreted narrowly and not out of the context of that case.

Lastly, I note that the court stated the standard of review with respect to each limitations issue.  For whatever reason, the court frequently omits an explicit standard of review analysis when considering limitations issues.  This approach is helpful and I hope to see more of it.

[41]      The motion judge’s conclusion that s. 4 of the RPLA does not apply to the appellants’ civil action is reviewable on a standard of correctness: Housen v. Nikolaisen2002 SCC 33[2002] 2 S.C.R. 235, at para. 8. For the reasons that follow, I agree with the motion judge’s conclusion on this issue.

[53]      The question of whether a limitation period expired prior to the issuance of a statement of claim is a question of mixed fact and law and subject to review on the standard of palpable and overriding error: Longo v. MacLaren Art Centre Inc.2014 ONCA 526323 O.A.C. 246, at para. 38. However, where there is an extricable error of principle, the standard of review is correctness: Housen, at paras. 8 and 36.

[79]      The appellants contend that the motion judge made a palpable and overriding error when he concluded that their claim was statute-barred even on the basis of what he described as a “rolling limitation period”. A “palpable and overriding error” is “an obvious error that is sufficiently significant to vitiate the challenged finding of fact”: Longo, at para. 39.

Ontario: the Court of Appeal on Crown Liability and Proceedings Act limitation period

In Brazeau v. Canada (Attorney General), the Court of Appeal held that a claim for damages arising from the adoption and maintenance of a federal regulatory policy regime that applies in all provinces arises “otherwise than in a province” and is therefore subject to the limitation period in s. 32 the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.  Federal limitation principles apply to that limitation period:

[32]      We agree with the motion judge that the six-year federal limitation period applies to these claims. The claims for Charter damages in both cases are with respect to the adoption and maintenance of a federal regulatory policy regime regarding administrative segregation that applied in all provinces. In this sense, the claims for Charter damages arise “otherwise than in a province”: see Markevich v. Canada2003 SCC 9[2003] 1 S.C.R. 94. As found by the motion judge, the start date for claims in Brazeau is July 20, 2009, and in Reddock, it is March 3, 2011.

[33]      We do not, however, agree with how the motion judge dealt with the potential tolling of the limitation period for particular individuals. At para. 386 of Brazeau, the motion judge said it was open to individual claimants to rebut the running of “the six-year limitation period in accordance with the laws relating to prescription and the limitation of actions in force in a province”. If the federal limitation period applies, we do not understand how the tolling of that limitation period could be determined by provincial law. The Charter claims in both cases are governed by the federal limitation period and the jurisprudence relating to the tolling of that limitation period: see e.g., Doig v. Canada (Minister of National Revenue)2011 FC 371387 F.T.R. 156.

I confess that it’s not clear to me how s. 32 the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act can oust the application of the Limitations Act.  Claims against the Crown are not excluded from limitation in s. 2, and the CLPA limitation period isn’t in the Limitation Act’s s. 19 schedule of limitation periods that remain in force. I’ve never seen this conflict explained, though to be fair I haven’t read into it too deeply.

Ontario: Court of Appeal on the limitation of equitable set-offs

In 3113736 Canada Ltd. v. Cozy Corner Bedding Inc., the Court of Appeal explains why an equitable set-off is not subject to limitation:

[37]      I would not give effect to this argument. Although equitable set-off is a defence, it is one that arises from the defendant having a “cross-claim” that is closely connected to the plaintiff’s claim: Telford v. Holt1987 CanLII 18 (SCC)[1987] 2 S.C.R. 193, at p. 212. It is a way of raising, as a defence, a plaintiff’s liability to take into account a loss it occasioned to the defendant in reduction of the plaintiff’s claim. It is often referred to as a “claim for equitable set-off”: Canada Trustco Mortgage Co. v. Pierce (Estate Trustee of) (2005), 2005 CanLII 15706 (ON CA)254 D.L.R. (4th) 79 (C.A.), at para. 50, leave to appeal refused: [2005] S.C.C.A. No. 337.

Ontario: Court of Appeal on adding a claim after the limitation period’s expiry

 

The Court of Appeal decision in The Catalyst Capital Group Inc. v. Dundee Kilmer Developments Limited Partnership follows Klassen for its statement on adding a claim after the expiry of the limitation period:

[75]      I accept this submission. The governing principles were stated by this court in Klassen v. Beausoleil2019 ONCA 40734 C.P.C. (8th) 180, at paras. 27-30:

 An amendment [to a statement of claim] will be statute-barred if it seeks to assert a “new cause of action” after the expiry of the applicable limitation period: North Elgin, at paras. 19-23, 33; Quality Meat Packers, at para. 65. In this regard, the case law discloses a “factually oriented” approach to the concept of a “cause of action” — namely, “a factual situation the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from the court a remedy against another person”: North Elgin, at para. 19; Quality Meat Packers, at para. 65.

An amendment does not assert a new cause of action — and therefore is not impermissibly statute-barred — if the “original pleading … contains all the facts necessary to support the amendments … [such that] the amendments simply claim additional forms of relief, or clarify the relief sought, based on the same facts as originally pleaded”: Dee Ferraro, at paras. 4, 13-14; North Elgin Centre Inc., at paras. 20-21; East Side Mario’s Barrie, at paras. 31-32; Quality Meat Packers, at para. 65. Put somewhat differently, an amendment will be refused when it seeks to advance, after the expiry of a limitation period, a “fundamentally different claim” based on facts not originally pleaded: North Elgin, at para. 23.

The relevant principle is summarized in Paul M. Perell & John W. Morden, The Law of Civil Procedure in Ontario, 3rd ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2017), at p. 186:

A new cause of action is not asserted if the amendment pleads an alternative claim for relief out of the same facts previously pleaded and no new facts are relied upon, or amount simply to different legal conclusions drawn from the same set of facts, or simply provide particulars of an allegation already pled or additional facts upon [which] the original right of action is based.

In the course of this exercise, it is important to bear in mind the general principle that, on this type of pleadings motion, it is necessary to read the original Statement of Claim generously and with some allowance for drafting deficiencies: Farmers Oil and Gas Inc. v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources)2016 ONSC 6359134 O.R. (3d) 390 (Div. Ct.), at para. 23.

Ontario: Court of Appeal holds no limitation period for applications for a declaration on a codicil’s validity

In Piekut v. Romoli, the Court of Appeal held that no limitation period applies to an application for a declaration on the validity of a codicil.

The motion judge held that such an application is a proceeding for a declaration without consequential relief and therefore free from limitation pursuant to s. 16(1)(a) of the Limitations Act.

The court rejected the appellant’s argument that the basic limitation period applied:

[11]      We do not accept this submission. Both Leibel and Birtzu are readily distinguishable from this appeal.

 [12]      In Leibel, Greer J. acknowledged the potential application of s. 16(1)(a) of the Limitations Act, but held that it did not apply because the applicants had clearly sought consequential relief in addition to a determination of the validity of the will. This consequential relief included: an Order revoking the grant of the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustees with a Will; an Order removing the Estate Trustees; an Order that the Estate Trustees pass their accounts; an Order appointing an Estate Trustee During Litigation; and an Order for damages in negligence against the drafting solicitor and her law firm. In addition, in Leibel the primary will of the deceased had been probated. Birtzu had a similar fact pattern.
 [13]      In contrast, in this case Helen sought none of this consequential relief. Nor has anyone done anything to propound the will. It sat there for seven years, presumably because the siblings were all trying to work out their disagreements. In these circumstances, Helen was entitled to seek declaratory relief, simply to establish the validity, or lack of validity, of the codicils – to define the rights of the parties in order to avoid future disputes.

As I wrote regarding the motion judge’s decision, this is the correct outcome by the wrong reasoning.

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

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

Statutory limitation periods have always applied to causes of action, which is why there was no suggestion that they applied to will challenges under the former scheme.  The confusion arises from misapprehending the universality of the basic limitation period.  It is universal in that applies to all causes of action, not because it applies to every proceeding.

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: Court of Appeal on the limitation of anticipatory breach claims

The Court of Appeal decision in Glen Schnarr & Associates Inc. v. Vector (Georgetown) Limited summarises the principles of the limitation of claims arising from the anticipatory repudiation of a contract:

[29]      Anticipatory repudiation occurs when a contracting party, “by express language or conduct, or as a matter of implication from what he has said or done, repudiates his contractual obligations before they fall due”: G.H.L. Fridman, The Law of Contract in Canada, 6th ed. (Toronto: Carswell, 2011), at p. 585. The parties concede that LDGL by its correspondence of October 2004 did just that.

 [30]      However, an anticipatory repudiation of a contract does not, in itself, terminate or discharge a contract; it depends on the election made by the non-repudiating party: Guarantee Co. of North America v. Gordon Capital Corp.1999 CanLII 664 (SCC)[1999] 3 S.C.R. 423, at p. 440Brown v. Belleville (City)2013 ONCA 148114 O.R. (3d) 561, at para. 42. As Cronk J.A. stated in the latter decision at para. 45:
 It appears to be settled law in Canada that where the innocent party to a repudiatory breach or an anticipatory repudiation wishes to be discharged from the contract, the election to disaffirm the contract must be clearly and unequivocally communicated to the repudiating party within a reasonable time. Communication of the election to disaffirm or terminate the contract may be accomplished directly, by either oral or written words, or may be inferred from the conduct of the innocent party in the particular circumstances of the case: McCamus, at pp. 659-61. [Emphasis added.]

[31]      In Chitty on Contracts, 28th ed. (London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1999), Vol. 1, at p. 25-012, the authors write:

 Acceptance of a repudiation must be clear and unequivocal and mere inactivity or acquiescence will generally not be regarded as acceptance for this purpose. But there may be circumstances in which a continuing failure to perform will be sufficiently unequivocal to constitute acceptance of a repudiation. It all depends on the “particular contractual relationship and the particular circumstances of the case.”

[32]      This commentary was accepted by this court in Brown v. Belleville, at para. 48, and by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in White v. E.B.F. Manufacturing Ltd.2005 NSCA 167239 N.S.R. (2d) 270, at para. 91.

 [33]      The limitation period then depends on the election that is made in response to an anticipatory repudiation: Ali v. O-Two Medical Technologies Inc.2013 ONCA 733118 O.R. (3d) 321, at para. 22-27Hurst v. Hancock2019 ONCA 483, at para. 19.

Ontario: Court of Appeal holds s. 51(1) of the SABS is subject to discoverability

Is the limitation period in (the repealed) s. 281.1(1) of the Insurance Act and s. 51(1) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule subject to discoverability? Yes, held the Court of Appeal in Tomec v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company.

Section 51(1) provided that “A mediation proceeding or evaluation under section 280 or 280.1 or a court proceeding or arbitration under section 281 shall be commenced within two years after the insurer’s refusal to pay the benefit claimed.”

Economical argued that the refusal to pay a benefit is a specific event that isn’t tied to the cause of action and therefore isn’t subject to discoverability. The court rejected this argument and found that the refusal to pay a benefit is an element of the cause of action:

[35]      I would not give effect to this argument. It is contrary to the admonition from the Supreme Court in Pioneer at para. 36 that:

In determining whether a limitation period runs from the accrual of a cause of action or knowledge of the injury, such that discoverability applies, substance, not form, is to prevail: even where the statute does not explicitly state that the limitation period runs from ‘the accrual of the cause of action’, discoverability will apply if it is evident that the operation of a limitation period is, in substance, conditioned upon accrual of a cause of action or knowledge of an injury.

[36]      The refusal to pay a benefit is clearly tied to the appellant’s cause of action. Absent a refusal to pay the benefit sought, there cannot be a claim made for mediation or an evaluation. Thus, the refusal to pay a benefit and the ability to make a claim are inextricably intertwined in the cause of action. The refusal cannot be stripped out of the cause of action and treated as if it is independent from it.

[37]      This distinguishes the case at bar from the situations in Ryan and Levesque. In both those cases, the courts were considering limitation periods that were wholly independent from the cause of action. The commencement of the limitation period was tied to the date of the deceased’s death. In contrast, the applicable limitation period in this case is tied to the accrual of the cause of action.

My only quibble is with the court’s discussion of the cause of action. What does it mean to be “tied” to a cause of action? A cause of action arises from certain factual elements (for example, the five elements of negligent misrepresentation, or the one element of a breach of contract). It’s imprecise to discuss a fact being “inextricably intertwined in the cause of action”; it’s either an element of the cause of action or it isn’t.

The decisions also has a rare example of an absurdity analysis in the context of limitation provision interpretation:

[46]      Statutes are to be interpreted in a manner that does not lead to absurd results. An interpretation is absurd if it “leads to ridiculous or frivolous consequences, if it is extremely unreasonable or inequitable, if it is illogical or incoherent, or if it is incompatible with other provisions or with the object of the legislative enactment”: Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re)1998 CanLII 837 (SCC)[1998] 1 S.C.R. 2736 O.R. (3d) 418, at para. 27.

[47]      Here, the decisions below thrust the appellant into a Kafkaesque regulatory regime. A hard limitation period would bar the appellant from claiming enhanced benefits, before she was even eligible for those benefits. However, if the appellant had not claimed any benefits until she obtained CAT status in 2015, she would not be caught by the limitation period: Machaj v. RBC General Insurance Company2016 ONCA 257, at para. 6. Alternatively, if the appellant had coincidentally obtained CAT status before 2012, the hard limitation period would not bar her claim for enhanced benefits.
[48]      This outcome is absurd. There is no principled reason for barring the appellant’s claim for enhanced benefits in the first scenario but allowing the claim in the second and third scenario. To do so would effectively penalize the appellant for accessing benefits she is statutorily entitled to, or for developing CAT status too late.