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.

BC: demand loans v. contingent loans

Kong v. Saunders provides a helpful overview of the limitation periods applicable to demand loans and contingent loans under the previous Limitations Act.  While the new Limitations Act recently turned two years old, it will be some time before it applies to all new actions, so there remains value in reviewing these concepts.  These are relevant paragraphs:

[17]        The previous Limitation Act applies to this case because it was still in effect at all materials times prior to the commencement of the underlying action.  Under s. 3(5) of that Act, the residual six-year limitation period, which applies in this case, began to run on the date on which the right to bring the action arose.

[18]        The jurisprudence has established a distinction between demand loans and contingent loans in respect of the commencement of the running of the limitation period.  Demand loans are, of course, loans payable on demand.  Contingent loans are loans that are payable on a future date or upon the occurrence of a specified event.

[19]        The limitation period in respect of contingent loans begins to run on the repayment date or the occurrence of the contingency.  This is because an action for repayment of the loan cannot be brought prior to the repayment date or the occurrence of the contingency, as the case may be.

[20]        It may seem intuitive that the limitation period in respect of demand loans begins to run on the date of the demand for repayment, but this is not so.  The reason is that the law has developed in a manner that it is not necessary for demand to be made before action can be brought for repayment of the loan.  This means that an action may be brought at any time after the demand loan is made.  As a result, the limitation period begins to run on the day the loan is made.

[21]        The above principles have been previously accepted by this Court in one of the cases relied upon by Mr. and Mrs. Kong, Berry v. Page, where Mr. Justice Wallace said the following at 247 (B.C.L.R.):

            The characterization of the loan as either a contingent loan or a demand loan determines whether or not the action is statute barred under theLimitation Act. It is well established that the cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations runs, from the earliest time at which repayment can be required (Chitty on Contracts, 25th ed. (1983), vol. I, para. 1843, p. 1024). For a demand loan, the statute of limitations runs as of the date of the advancement of the funds, and not from the date of the demand. No demand is necessary in order for the cause of action to arise: Barclay Const. Corp. v. Bank of Montreal (1988), 1988 CanLII 2898 (BC SC), 28 B.C.L.R. (2d) 376 at 381, [1988] 6 W.W.R. 707, 40 B.L.R. 150 (S.C.); Heubach v. Sprague, 41 Man. R. 292, [1933] 2 W.W.R. 99, [1933] 3 D.L.R. 647 (C.A.).

            Case law supports the proposition that if money is lent to be repaid at a particular time in the future, or upon the happening of a specified contingency, then the cause of action arises at the time specified or upon the happening of the contingency: Ingrebretsen v. Christensen, 37 Man. R. 93,[1927] 3 W.W.R. 135 (C.A.); Re Gould; Ex parte Garvey, 1940 CanLII 89 (ON CA), [1940] O.R. 250, [1940] 3 D.L.R. 12 (C.A.). In these circumstances, the cause of action does not arise, and the statute of limitations does not run until the contingency is satisfied.

[22]         A more recent decision of this Court, Ewachniuk Estate v. Ewachniuk, 2011 BCCA 510 (CanLII), has also acknowledged these principles.  In that case, the Court held that a loan payable one year after demand fell within the category of a contingent loan, with the result that the limitation period did not begin running on the day the loan was made.  The reason is that an action could not have been brought for repayment of the loan on the day the loan was made because the demand and the lapse of time after the demand were conditions precedent to the bringing of an action.

[23]        The common law is the same in other provinces: see, for example, Johnson v. Johnson, 2012 SKCA 87 (CanLII).  Interestingly, with the new Limitation Act, British Columbia has joined Alberta and Ontario in specifically addressing the limitation period for a demand obligation.  Section 14 of the newAct effectively provides that the limitation period does not begin running until demand is made.