Ontario: some self-evident points on the timing of limitations defences

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Filice v. Complex Services Inc. is a reminder of certain commonsense, probably generally self-evident principles about the timing of limitations defences.  Raise a limitations defence in response to an amendment motion (if there is one to raise) on the motion, and when you raise a limitations defence generally, it shouldn’t for the first time on appeal:

[55]      There is no information in the record whether the issue of the limitations period was argued when the respondent sought leave to amend his statement of claim.  That is where it ought to have been argued but I have to assume it was not. If so, it is, in my view, again too late to raise the issue in this court.  However, even if it were open to the appellant to raise the issue now, I would not give effect to it.  The appellant was on notice of the respondent’s essential claim, that is, that his dismissal was improper.  Whether the claim is styled as wrongful dismissal or constructive dismissal, the appellant was fully aware of the nature of the claim it was facing within the two year limitation period.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ontario: amendments are subject to time-bars

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Ontario: the limitation of new causes of action

In David v. Easte Side Mario’s Barrie, the Court of Appeal quotes from The Law of Civil Procedure in Ontario for the principle that an alternative claim for relief arising out of the same facts is not a new cause of action for limitations purposes:

[32]      And, quoting from Paul M. Perell & John W. Morden, The Law of Civil Procedure in Ontario, 3d ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada, 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.

See also 1100997 Ontario Limited, at para. 20.

Ultimately, the Court applied the “fundamentally different claim” test to conclude that the plaintiff wasn’t entitled to the amendment.

As I discussed when the Court of Appeal last addressed this issue, the “fundamentally different claim” test makes a lot of sense.

My complaint, which I recognise verges on pedantry, is that a cause of action analysis, and the casual use of the word “claim”, is problematic in the limitations context.  The Limitations Act has nothing to do with causes of action, and, as I often note, does not appear in the Act.  This is because the Act uses the language of “claim”, which reflects an intentional break with cause of action accrual as determinative of the commencement of time.  Claims are not causes of action, and causes of action have very little do with the operation of the current limitations scheme.  It’s unhelpful when the Court fails to account for this.

Ontario: The Court of Appeal reminds that limitations defences are affirmative

 

Two aspects of the Court of Appeal decision in Abrahamovitz v. Berens are noteworthy.

First, the court explains why the expiry of the limitation period is a defence that must be pleaded in enough detail to makes this a candidate for leading decision on the principle:

[30]      This court explained in Beardsley v. Ontario (2001), 2001 CanLII 8621 (ON CA)57 O.R. (3d) 1 (C.A.), at para. 21 that “the expiry of a limitation period does not render a cause of action a nullity; rather, it is a defence and must be pleaded”. See also:Strong v. Paquet Estate (2000), 2000 CanLII 16831 (ON CA)50 O.R. (3d) 70 (C.A.), at paras. 35-37Tran v. University of Western Ontario2016 ONCA 978 (CanLII)410 D.L.R. (4th) 527, at para. 18; and Salewski v. Lalonde2017 ONCA 515 (CanLII)137 O.R. (3d) 750, at para. 43.

[31]      There are two aspects to the statement from Beardsley. One is that from a procedural fairness point of view, a plaintiff is entitled to plead in response to a limitations defence, so that if a motion is brought to dismiss the claim, the court will have all the facts relied on to assess discoverability, or whatever other factors a plaintiff may wish to raise in response: Beardsley, at para. 22;Strong Estate, at para. 38Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp. No. 1352 v. Newport Beach Development Inc.2012 ONCA 850 (CanLII)113 O.R. (3d) 673, at paras. 115-116; and Greatrek Trust S.A./Inc. v. Aurelian Resources Inc.[2009] O.J. No. 611 (Ont. S.C.J.), at para. 18.

[32]      The requirement that an affirmative defence, including a limitations defense, be pleaded to avoid surprise to the opposite party is reflected in r. 25.07(4) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides:

In a defence, a party shall plead any matter on which the party intends to rely to defeat the claim of the opposite party and which, if not specifically pleaded, might take the opposite party by surprise or raise an issue that has not been raised in the opposite party’s pleading.

[33]      The second aspect of the statement from Beardsley, however, is more germane to this case. A limitations defence is “just that, a defence”: Lacroix (Litigation Guardian of) v. Dominique2001 MBCA 122 (CanLII)202 D.L.R. (4th) 121, at para. 18. A defendant chooses whether or not to rely on a limitations defence, but is not obliged to do so: Graeme Mew, Debra Rolph, & Daniel Zacks, The Law of Limitations, 3rd ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis Canada Inc., 2016) p.166. See e.g.: Strong Estate, at paras. 35-40; and Girsberger v. Kresz (2000), 2000 CanLII 22406 (ON SC)50 O.R. (3d) 157 (C.A.), at para. 13.

[34]      The fact that the choice belongs to the defendant is codified in s. 22 of the Limitations Act, 2002, which allows a limitation period to be suspended or extended by agreement.

[35]      This is a very important and useful provision that allows parties to a potential claim to suspend the running of a limitation (toll the limitation period) to allow them to conduct investigations or settlement discussions, without pressure on the claimant to commence the action unnecessarily. It promotes judicial economy and is cost-effective for the parties.

[36]      Obviously, this provision would be ineffective if another party could assert the limitation period in spite of the defendant’s agreement to toll the limitation period, or if the action became a nullity on the expiry of the limitation period. See for example, Schreiber v. Lavoie (2002), 2002 CanLII 49430 (ON SC)59 O.R. (3d) 130 (S.C.J.), where a third party was not entitled to rely on r. 29.05(1) (a rule which allows a third party to plead a defence not raised by the defendant) to assert a limitations defense that the defendant had expressly agreed it would not rely on.

Second, there is a reminder that special circumstances doctrine is of no application:

[24]      I would not accept this argument for two reasons. First, the Estate has not commenced any proceeding or claimed any relief. The essence of this argument amounts to invocation of the old common law doctrine of special circumstances that no longer applies under the Limitations Act, 2002. See: Joseph v. Paramount Canada’s Wonderland2008 ONCA 469 (CanLII)90 O.R. (3d) 401. The Estate is essentially saying that because all of the facts have already been pleaded in the action, there is no surprise and no prejudice to the defendants (or other parties) to allow the Estate to be added as a party now, even though the limitation period has expired.

Ontario: The Court of Appeal on adding new claims to a proceeding

The Court of Appeal in 1100997 Ontario Limited v. North Elgin Centre Inc. sets out the test for amending a pleading to add a new claim outside a limitation period (making our last post rather unnecessary).  The court will refuse an amendment when it seeks to advance after the expiry of the limitation period a “fundamentally different claim” based on facts not originally pleaded:

[19]      A cause of action is “a factual situation the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from the court a remedy against another person”: Letang v. Cooper, [1965] 1 Q.B. 232 (C.A.), at pp. 242-43, as adopted by this court in July v. Neal (1986), 1986 CanLII 149 (ON CA), 57 O.R. (2d) 129 (C.A.), at para. 23.

[20]      In Morden & Perell, The Law of Civil Procedure in Ontario, 2nd ed. (Markham: LexisNexis Canada Inc., 2014), at p. 142, the authors state:

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. [Footnotes omitted.]

[21]      In Dee Ferraro Ltd. v. Pellizzari, this court noted the distinction between pleading a new cause of action and pleading a new or alternative remedy based on the same facts originally pleaded. The appellants had commenced an action against their lawyer claiming damages for breaches of contract, trust and fiduciary duty and for fraud and negligence. The appellants then sought to amend their pleading. This court, in overturning the motion judge’s dismissal of the motion to amend, concluded that the proposed amendments, such as claims for a mandatory order and a constructive trust over shares, could be made because they flowed directly from facts previously pleaded.

[22]      By contrast, a proposed amendment will not be permitted where it advances a “fundamentally different claim” after the expiry of a limitation period: Frohlick v. Pinkerton Canada Ltd. In that case, the court did not permit the plaintiff in a wrongful dismissal action to amend the statement of claim to assert a claim for damages for constructive dismissal on the basis that the limitation period had expired. This court dismissed the appeal. The amendment regarding constructive dismissal related to events that occurred prior to the events described in the original statement of claim that were unrelated to that claim. The defendant was unaware of the new allegations prior to the plaintiff seeking the amendments, and the events were not put in issue or encompassed within the original claim.

[23]      Based on the foregoing, 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.

I think this is a sound conclusion. Allowing amendments so long as they don’t advance a fundamentally different claim based on the facts originally pleaded makes sense, though it doesn’t seem like much of a departure from the “same factual matrix” test.  Indeed, later in the decision Justice van Rensburg refers to the factual matric concept:

[38]      I therefore conclude that the proposed amendments contained in the statement of claim ought not to have been refused on the basis that they raised new claims based on new causes of action.

Perhaps this new formulation’s chief virtue is that it doesn’t necessarily require a cause of action analysis.  Comparing claims is materially different than comparing causes of action.  “Claim” is a defined term in the Limitations Act, whereas the words “cause of action” don’t appear at all in the Limitations Act, and particular causes of action and their accrual are immaterial to a limitations analysis.  Mischief results when the court forgets this.

Other aspects of the decision are noteworthy.  Justice van Rensburg concludes that when a notice of application commences a proceeding, the court should consider both the notice of application and the supporting affidavit material to determine whether a proposed amendment sets forth a new claim.

Justice van Rensburg follows the 1989 Court of Appeal decision in Energy Probe v. Canada (Attorney  General) for the principle that affidavit materials on an application form part of the pleadings.  The interesting question that arises from this principle is its interaction with the affirmative nature of a limitations defence.  In an action, the defendant must plead the Limitations Act in the statement of defence.  The plaintiff may then plead the facts supporting a discovery argument in reply.  See the Court of Appeal decision in Collins.

Does this mean that the respondent to an application should “plead” the limitations defence in  a responding affidavit? Should the applicant then plead the facts supporting a discovery argument in a reply affidavit?  Increasingly, I’m of the mind that it’s impossible to square limitations law and application procedure (with certain exceptions, especially contested applications to pass accounts), but this is an issue (and likely an article) for another day.

Lastly, Justice van Rensburg  also reminds us that an order refusing leave to amend a pleading to add a new claim outside a limitation period is a final order:

[17]      In Energy Probe v. Canada (Attorney General) (1989), 1989 CanLII 258 (ON CA), 68 O.R. (2d) 449 (C.A.), leave to appeal refused 37 O.A.C. 160 (S.C.C.), in determining whether a cause of action was disclosed, this court stated that “affidavit materials on an application are to be considered as the pleadings” (at para. 10). Further, where oppression proceedings commenced by notice of application were converted into an action in Przysuski v. City Optical Holdings Inc., 2014 ONSC 3686 (CanLII), Perell J. refused to strike paragraphs of the statement of claim as raising unanticipated claims as an abuse of process because “[t]he Notice of Application should be read with its supporting affidavits and with the evidentiary record for the Application” (at para. 11).

Ontario: the limitation of adding new claims to a proceeding

 

Justice Nordheimer’s decision in Farmers Oil and Gas Inc. v. Ontario (Natural Resources) has a useful overview of the jurisprudence of amending a pleading to add a new cause of action after the expiry of the limitation period.  It will be a good starting point if you encounter the issue:

[14]           As I have said, the central issue between the parties is whether the proposed amendments give greater clarity or particularity to the existing claim, or whether they advance new claims.  On that point, the appellant relies heavily on the decision in 1309489 Ontario Inc. v. BMO Bank of Montreal (2011), 2011 ONSC 5505 (CanLII), 107 O.R. (3d) 384 (S.C.J.)where Lauwers J. addressed this same issue.  In that decision, Lauwers J. referred to the two different approaches to determining whether a claim is a new cause of action.  On the one hand, one can see a cause of action as a factual matrix.  On the other hand, one can see a cause of action simply as the legal basis upon which the claim for relief is based.  Lauwers J. concluded that the trend of the case law was to favour the broader factually oriented approach to the meaning of a cause of action.  Under that broader approach, if the defendant has notice of the factual matrix underlying the claim being advanced, then amendments that arise out of, or do not depart from, that factual matrix do not constitute “new” causes of action that would not be allowed by way of amendment.  On that point, Lauwers J. said, at para. 27:

A plaintiff is not required to name or specify the technical cause of action as an essential part of pleading; in saying this, I do not resile from the requirement noted in Morden and Perell, supra, that ordinarily the facts as originally pleaded, or as better particularized in the proposed new pleading, must be able to sustain the technical cause of action.  [emphasis added]

[15]           A very short time later, Lauwers J. had to deal with this same issue a second time.  In Sweda Farms Ltd. (c.o.b. Best Choice Eggs) v. Ontario Egg Producers, [2011] O.J. No. 4886 (S.C.J.) the plaintiff sought to amend the statement of claim to advance a conspiracy claim, along with other amendments.  The defendant objected on the basis that any such claim was barred by the expiration of the limitations period.  In allowing the amendments to be made, Lauwers J. again addressed the meaning of a cause of action and said, at para. 25:

I find that the broader, factually-oriented approach to the meaning of “cause of action” in interpreting and applying rule 26.01 is the correct approach.  It is consistent with the trend of the cases and is also consistent with a purposive approach to the interpretation of limitations legislation.  This means that the defendant’s basic entitlement is to have notice of the factual matrix out of which the claim for relief arises.  In my view the existing set of pleadings raises the factual matrix of concern to the plaintiffs and within which the defendants’ possible liability is to be located.  The proposed Fresh Statement of Claim simply reframes those allegations of fact.

[16]           The approach taken by Lauwers J. was tacitly approved by the Court of Appeal in Rausch v. Pickering (City),[2013] O.J. No. 5584 (C.A.) where Epstein J.A. said, at para. 95:

As Lauwers J. (as he then was) emphasized in BMO Bank of Montreal, at para. 27, as long as the existing pleading “raises the factual matrix of concern to the plaintiff and within which [the defendant’s] possible liability is to be located[,] it successfully asserts a cause of action within the meaning of rule 21.01(1)(b).”  Thus, even if the plaintiff does not explicitly set out the technical cause of action on which it relies, if the facts as pleaded implicitly advance such a claim, the court ought not to strike the pleadings: BMO Bank of Montreal, at paras. 26-27.

[17]           I say that the approach was tacitly approved only because the issue that was before the Court of Appeal in Rauschhad less to do with the expired limitation period and more to do with whether the proposed amendment disclosed a cause of action.

[18]           The respondent, on the other hand, relies on a different line of cases beginning with Fuda v. Jim McIntosh Petroleum Engineering Ltd., [2013] O.J. No. 5208 (S.C.J.); aff’d. [2014] O.J. No. 2255 (C.A.) where Wilton-Siegel J. granted summary judgment dismissing certain claims, that had been added to the statement of claim by amendment, on the basis that the limitations period had expired.  In addressing the issue whether the subsequent claims could be seen to have been part of the original claim, Wilton-Siegel J. said, at para. 310:

Given the principles set out above, I conclude that each of these causes of action were asserted for the first time in the 2013 Amendment dated February 8, 2013, other than the original cause of action based on the 2003 Reserve Report Representation, which was asserted in the Statement of Claim.  The fact that both the cause of action asserted in the Statement of Claim and the four additional causes of action asserted in the 2013 Amendment lie in negligent misrepresentation is not sufficient to conclude that these remaining causes of action are contained in the Statement of Claim.

[19]           It is of some importance to this conclusion to be aware of how the Court of Appeal approached this conclusion.  In dismissing the appeal, the court said, at para. 9:

The misrepresentation claims that were asserted after the expiry of the limitation period advanced new causes of action that were unconnected to the factual matrix pleaded in the original statement of claim.  [emphasis added]

[20]           The respondent relies on two other authorities.  One is Winnipeg (City) v. Entegra Credit Union Ltd., [2013] M.J. No. 10 (C.A.).  In that case, the motion judge had permitted the plaintiff to amend its statement of claim.  The motion judge found that the proposed amendments did not constitute new causes of action.  The Court of Appeal reversed that finding.  The Court of Appeal found that the motion judge had misunderstood the nature of the claim being advanced by the proposed amendments, that is, a separate and distinct claim for breach of contract that was “independent” of the existing claim.

[21]           The other authority is American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. v. Durable Release Coaters Ltd., [2010] O.J. No. 2515 (S.C.J.) where the issue was whether certain claims at trial were barred by the expiration of a limitations period.  The claims had been added to the statement of claim by way of amendment with the limitation period issue being expressly reserved for determination at trial.  The trial judge, Newbould J. , found that those claims were barred by the limitation period, and were not saved by any suggestion that they were not “new” causes of action, but rather were encompassed within the same factual situation previously pleaded.  In so concluding, Newbould J. said, at para. 50:

In my view the amendments do not plead alternative claims for relief arising out of the same facts previously pleaded.  The new facts pleaded are relied upon to support new causes of action and new heads of damages arising from those new causes of action.  While it is the same contract as previously pleaded that is claimed in the amendments to have been breached, the contractual provisions and breaches relied on in the amendment are different from the previous pleading and the breaches and resulting damages are different from those previously pleaded.  They constitute new causes of action.

[22]             As may be obvious from the above, the distinction between the authorities relied upon by the appellant, and those relied upon by the respondent, turns on whether the proposed amendments do, or do not, arise out of the same facts, or the factual matrix, that was pleaded in the original statement of claim.  If they do, then the amendments should be permitted.  If they do not, and the limitations period has expired, then the amendments should be refused.

[23]           In determining this issue in this case, I must begin by reading the original statement of claim generously and with due allowance for drafting deficiencies – see Operation Dismantle Inc. v. Canada, 1985 CanLII 74 (SCC), [1985] 1 S.C.R. 441.  In my view, it is clear from a generous reading of the statement of claim that the appellant’s original claim arises out of an alleged course of conduct between it and the Ministry that began in 1991, and continued through to 1995, when the new policy was adopted, and the alleged unfair dealing by the Ministry with the appellant came to light.  It is clear that the appellant was, at all relevant times, interested in obtaining the near shore rights.  The appellant claims that it did not take steps to acquire those rights only because the Ministry told it that it did not need to because, up until 1995, the Ministry was not in a position to grant those rights.  What the appellant alleges, however, is that the Ministry did not tell it that companies could file applications for those rights and, specifically, that one company had filed for the very rights that the appellant was seeking.

[24]           When one then looks at the proposed amendments, they allege facts that are clearly part and parcel of these dealings.  They arise out of the same factual matrix.  In that respect, they fall into the Sweda and related line of cases and are thus distinguishable from the Fuda line of cases.  They provide precisely the type of particulars regarding what was said, and between whom, that ought to have been part of the original statement of claim.  What they do not do, however, is allege some new and distinct claim unrelated to that original claim.

Ontario: A limitations defence must be pleaded

In Singh v. Trump, Justice Perell dismissed a plaintiff’s claim as time-barred despite the defendants not pleading the Limitations Act, seeking leave to amend to plead it, or raising it in their written submissions.  His reasons neither refer to the fact that the defence was not pleaded nor explain why, in the absence of the plea, he should invoke the Limitations Act.

In the circumstances, the Court of Appeal found that it was not appropriate for Justice Perell to invoke the Limitations Act and dismiss the claim as statute-barred.  A limitations defence is an affirmative defence and must be pleaded.  Justice Rouleau’s decision provides a helpful overview of the relevant jurisprudence:

[132]   This court has consistently held that “[t]he expiry of a limitation period is a defence to an action that must be pleaded in a statement of defence”: Collins v. Cortez, 2014 ONCA 685 (CanLII), [2014] O.J. No. 4753, at para. 10, per van Rensburg J.A. (citing S. (W.E.) v. P. (M.M.) (2000), 2000 CanLII 16831 (ON CA), 50 O.R. (3d) 70 (C.A.), at paras. 37-38, leave to appeal to S.C.C. refused, [2001] 149 O.A.C. 397). This requirement is embodied in rule 25.07(4) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which Ontario courts have consistently held “applies to pleadings relating to limitations that might bar an action”: S. (W.E.) v. P. (M.M.), at para. 37. Rule 25.07(4) provides as follows:

In a defence, a party shall plead any matter on which the party intends to rely to defeat the claim of the opposite party and which, if not specifically pleaded, might take the opposite party by surprise or raise an issue that has not been raised in the opposite party’s pleading.

[133]   Justice Cronk explained the rationale behind the requirement that a party specifically plead a limitation period defence in Hav-A-Kar Leasing Ltd. v. Vekselshtein, 2012 ONCA 826 (CanLII), 225 A.C.W.S. (3d) 237, at para. 69:

The failure to raise substantive responses to a plaintiff’s claims until trial or, worse, until the close of trial, is contrary to the spirit and requirements of theRules of Civil Procedure and the goal of fair contest that underlies those Rules. Such a failure also undermines the important principle that the parties to a civil lawsuit are entitled to have their differences resolved on the basis of the issues joined in the pleadings.

[134]   In S. (W.E.) v. P. (M.M.), MacPherson J.A. confirmed that Ontario courts “have consistently held that rule 25.07(4) applies to pleadings relating to limitations that might bar an action”: at para. 37. He went on to explain that even though in that case the trial judge had given counsel time to prepare submissions on the issue after he raised it during closing arguments, it did not remove the potential prejudice to P:

If S had raised the issue in his pleadings, P might have tried to settle, or even have abandoned, her counterclaim. Either decision might have had costs consequences. Another potential source of prejudice arises from the fact that counsel for P might have adopted different tactics at trial. In particular, counsel might have called different or additional evidence to support an argument that the discoverability principle applied (at para. 38).

[135]   MacPherson J.A. also noted that at no time during trial, including during closing arguments when the trial judge raised the limitation issue, did S seek to amend his pleadings. Nor did he seek such an amendment during the appeal hearing.

[136]   In my view, the defendants’ failure, in this case, to plead a Limitations Act defence or even to seek an amendment to their pleading to do so is, as it was in S. (W.E.) v. P. (M.M.), fatal.

Ontario: arguing discoverability doesn’t require a Reply

After a lengthy summer break, Under the Limit returns.  Expect a flood of new posts this week and next.

We begin with a pleadings decision in which substance triumphed over form.  A plaintiff’s failure to deliver to a Reply to a Statement of Defence pleading a limitations defence won’t necessarily bar the plaintiff from making a discoverability argument.

The defendant in Pershad v. Lachan moved for the dismissal of the plaintiff’s action on the basis that it was statute-barred by the expiry of the limitation period.  She ventured the rather dubious argument that once she pleaded a limitations defence in her Statement of Defence, rule 25.08 of the Rules of Civil Procedure required the plaintiff to deliver a Reply setting out the facts that he intended to prove to establish the discovery of his claim within the limitation period.  The defendant submitted that the failure to do so was fatal to the plaintiff’s claim.

The plaintiff counterargued that a Reply was unnecessary because the facts pleaded in his Statement of Claim were sufficient to raise the issue of discoverability.

Justice Lococo held that if Statement of Claim had been insufficient to raise discoverability (it was not), the appropriate course of action would have been to grant leave to file a Reply or amended  Statement of Claim to remedy the deficiency.

 

Ontario: The Court of Appeal reminds us to respond to limitations defences by delivering a reply

The Court of Appeal decision in Collins v. Cortez is a reminder that plaintiffs may respond to a limitations defence by delivering a reply.  Plaintiffs needn’t plead facts supporting a discovery argument in the Statement of Claim in anticipation of a limitations defence.

In Collins, Cortez moved to dismiss Collins’s personal injury claim on the basis that it was commenced two years after her accident and statute-barred by the expiry of the limitations period. Justice Gordon granted the motion. He gave effect to the presumption in section 5(2) of the Limitations Act, 2002 that the limitation period commenced on the date of accident. He held that because Collins did not plead discoverability facts in her Statement of Claim, she couldn’t make out a section 5(1) discoverability argument.

The Court of Appeal allowed Collins’s appeal:

In the normal course, if a limitations defence is raised, as here, in a statement of defence, and the plaintiff relies on the discoverability principle, the material facts relevant to discoverability should be pleaded in reply. I disagree with the conclusion of the motion judge that the appellant was required to plead the facts relevant to discoverability in her statement of claim. The expiry of a limitation period is a defence to an action that must be pleaded in a statement of defence. As such, discoverability, which is relevant to the limitations defence, need not be anticipated by a plaintiff and addressed in her statement of claim [citations omitted].

Update: Failing to deliver a Reply won’t necessarily bar a plaintiff from arguing discoverability.