Ontario: make coverage denials clear and unambiguous

Clarke v. Sunlife is a reminder that for a denial of coverage to commence a limitation period, it needs to be clear and unambiguous:

[23]           It is not clear that the words used by the Sun Life letter of February 24, 2014 was a denial of disability benefits that amounted to “injury, loss or damage.” It used milder language than denial or refusal, and suggested that Ms. Clarke might “feel Totally Disabled from Any Occupation.” It invited more information to support her feeling.  However, it also said that her file was closed. This leads to an ambiguity, which leaves it unclear whether or not Ms. Clarke’s loss had “ripened” at this stage. However, assuming that Ms. Clarke’s loss was sufficiently identifiable at this point, a second issue must be addressed, that is whether Ms. Clarke was aware at the time of the February 2014 letter that a proceeding would be the appropriate means to seek a remedy for that loss.

Update! The Court of Appeal overturned this decision.

Ontario: Court of Appeal on rolling limitation periods and contractual limitation periods

The Court of Appeal decision in Marvelous Mario’s Inc. v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. is a noteworthy addition to “rolling limitation period” jurisprudence.

The appellants sought coverage under the business interruption cover of a commercial insurance policy issued by the respondent.  The policy contained a contractual limitation period:

ACTION: Every action or proceeding against the insurer for the recovery of any claim under or by virtue of this contract is absolutely barred unless commenced within one year next after the loss or damage occurs.

The trial judge held that the claim for business interruption losses was an ongoing claim and subject to a rolling limitation period.  The appellants discovered it on a date more than a year before commencing the coverage action.  However, it was subject to a rolling limitation period, a new claim accrued each day the appellant sustained a business interruption loss.  Those days within a year of the action give rise to timely claims.

The Court of Appeal rejected this reasoning.  First, it considered the nature of a rolling limitation period:

[35]      The jurisprudence suggests that a rolling limitation period may apply in a breach-of-contract case in circumstances where the defendant has a recurring contractual obligation. The question is not whether the plaintiff is continuing to suffer a loss or damage, but whether the defendant has engaged in another breach of contract beyond the original breach by failing to comply with an ongoing obligation. In cases where there have been multiple breaches of ongoing obligations, it is equitable to impose a rolling limitation period.

Second, it found that the trial judge erred by considering whether the appellants were continuing to suffer damages rather than whether the respondent was breaching a recurring contractual obligation:

[37]      In my view, where the trial judge erred was in focussing her analysis on the question of whether the appellants were continuing to suffer damages rather than on the issue of whether the respondent had a recurring contractual obligation. Unlike Pickering Square, where the tenant had a recurring obligation to occupy the premises every month during the term of the lease, the respondent was not obliged to make recurring payments. Rather, the policy covered business interruption losses and the respondent was obliged to pay those losses in their totality, subject to any limits in the policy. The fact that there was a 24-month cap on the business interruption losses does not convert the respondent’s obligation to indemnify into a recurring contractual obligation. Therefore, this was not a proper case for the application of a rolling limitation period.

[38]      The appellants knew as of the closing date for the sale of the businesses that they no longer had the assets under their control and that consequently they would thereafter suffer business interruption losses. While the precise amount of the damages was unknown, the appellants knew at that point that they had suffered loss or damage and under the policy they were obliged to commence a claim within one year. The fact that the extent of damages may not be known with precision does not stop the commencement of the limitation period: Peixeiro v. Haberman, 1997 CanLII 325 (SCC)[1997] 3 S.C.R. 549, at para. 18. The Second Action was consequently time-barred in its entirety.

This reasoning raises some interesting issues (which, I note sheepishly, I missed entirely when writing about the trial decision).

First, a word on the “rolling limitation period”.  The court’s language suggests that it’s an equitable principle: “In cases where there have been multiple breaches of ongoing obligations, it is equitable to impose a rolling limitation period”.  This isn’t quite right.

Statutory limitation periods apply to causes of action.  Subject to certain exceptions, one limitation period applies to one cause of action (in the case of the Limitations Act, one basic and one ultimate limitation period apply to one “claim”, which derives from a cause of action).

When there are circumstances that cause multiple causes of action to accrue periodically, one limitation period applies to each cause of action.  In the case of a contractual obligation that recurs daily (the court’s example), each day the defendant fails to perform the obligation a discrete breach of contract occurs that gives rise to a discrete cause of action.  Each discrete cause of action has its own limitation period.

Because these limitation periods have the same length, it will appear as if one limitation period commences anew each day,  The limitation period appears to roll.  This is the “rolling limitation period”.

A rolling limitation period is accordingly just convenient way to describe multiple limitation periods of the same length commencing regularly and consecutively.  It’s not a special kind of limitation period that exists independently of the statutory limitation scheme to be invoked as equity requires.

On my reading, the Court’s analysis is correct.  The Court found there was one cause of action that accrued on a particular date. There were no multiple causes of action, and there were accordingly no multiple limitation periods that could appear to roll.

All of this is to say that I question the value of the “rolling limitation period” in limitations analyses.  What purpose does it actually serve?  Instead of asking whether there is a rolling limitation period, you might just as easily, and certainly more accurately, ask whether there are recurring causes of action.

Now for the second issue: I’m doubtful cause of action accrual, or causes of action generally, had any place in the parties’ limitations analysis.

The limitation period is contractual.  It reflects the parties’ agreement on when the insured can sue the insurer.

The limitation period commences on the occurrence of the “loss or damage” and bars “absolutely” an action “against the insurer for the recovery of any claim” under the policy (that is, a claim for indemnification).

The triggering event is not the accrual of a cause of action, but the occurrence of the “loss or damage” for which the insured claims indemnification.  I suspect the policy provided coverage for some business interruptions that don’t arise from actionable misconduct.  This means the insured could seek recovery for a claim for indemnification of a loss that has nothing to do with a cause of action.

This makes it bewildering that the parties appear to have agreed that common law discovery applied to this limitation period

As I read the provision, its language excludes discoverability of any kind. The limitation period commences on the date of an event—the occurrence of loss or damage—and expires absolutely one year later.  The word “absolutely” would seem an explicit bar to discoverability or the suspension of time.  If the parties intended for discoverability to apply, they could have used language like “…unless commenced within one year next after the insured could first reasonably have learned of the loss or damage”.

It’s also impossible to apply common law discovery to a limitation period that commences on the date of an event rather than on the accrual of a cause of action.  Discovery is of a cause of action: the rule provides that a cause of action accrues when a plaintiff can first reasonably discover its material facts.  This is why the rule doesn’t apply to statutory limitation periods that commence on the date of an event (like s. 38 of the Trustee Act) .

Further, discovery is always in relation to the cause of action that gives rise to the proceeding.  In this case, the cause of action giving rise to the proceeding was the breach of the insurance agreement, and this is the cause of action to which the contractual limitation period applies.  The discovery of some of other cause of action that may have resulted in the event that is the trigger of the limitation period wouldn’t in the normal course be material to the commencement of time.  It’s so unusual for the limitation of one cause of action to be determined by the accrual of another cause of action that if the parties intended this to be so I’d expect explicit language to that effect in their agreement (I’ve never seen such language).

More generally, because this is a contractual limitation period, the parties ought to have grounded their positions in the language of the policy.  The material question strikes me as being whether the “loss or damage” occurred within the meaning of the policy each day the business interruption lasted, or on the date of the event that caused the business interruption.  This is a question of policy interpretation.

Without having read the policy, I see arguments on both sides.  I think the strongest argument is the one the court accepted.  The day of the peril that caused the business interruption—the transaction—caused the appellants to suffer the “loss or damage” for which they sought indemnification.  That the interruption lasted days goes to quantifying the loss, not when it occurred.  I would think the appellants’ notification would have been helpful; it’s easy to imagine that the appellants filed one notification in regards of the business interruption, which might have indicated they considered there to be one loss. I’m not sure why this didn’t appear to be part of the record.

The counterargument is that each day of business interruption was a new occurrence of loss.  This is effectively the rolling limitation period argument, except not one based on cause of action accrual.

I welcome your thoughts on this!

Ontario: An insurer’s denial has to be (really) explicit to trigger discovery

The Divisional Court decision in Western Life Assurance Company v. Penttila demonstrates that if an insurer intends for a denial to commence a limitation period for a coverage proceeding, that denial needs to be as explicit as explicit can be.

The insurer, Western, denied its insured Penttila’s claim for LTD benefits in February 2013, and told her that she could appeal the denial within 60 days by written request.  At the same time, Western stated explicitly that it wasn’t waiving its right to rely on any “time limitations”.

Penttila initiated an appeal within the prescribed time.  Western wrote to Penttila in October 2014 that its position “remained unchanged”.  Pentilla didn’t understand this to mean Western had denied her appeal.  She wrote to Western in May 2015 asking about the decision in her appeal.  Western responded in June 2015 by confirming that benefits remained declined.  Penttila commenced a proceeding in June 2016.  Western defended, pleaded a limitations defence, and moved for judgment on it.  The motion judge held that a trial was necessary to determine the defence.

Penttila’s evidence was that she believed Western continued to consider appeal June 2015.  She didn’t understand Western October 2013 correspondence to be determinative of her appeal.

Western appealed. It argued that the Penttila should have known that a proceeding was an appropriate remedy for her loss once it terminated her LTD benefits.

Penttila’s position was that a proceeding wasn’t appropriate as of that date:

[24]           Ms. Penttila takes the position that it was not appropriate for her to file a claim as of March 7, 2013, as her appeal had not yet been finally determined by Western because:

a)   She was told she had a right to appeal provided she took certain steps which she did.  It was therefore not clear that the process had run its course;

 b)   There was no denial of the appeal or any reason to believe that the matter would not be amicably resolved;

 c)   She was not represented by legal counsel;

 d)   There was no clear reference to the fact that the limitation period was running in the communications from the insurer.  The insurer said only that “the limit”, whatever it was, was not being waived;

 e)   She made concessions and repaid monies paid pursuant to her CPP disability setoff, believing that she was engaging in an attempt at dispute resolution.  This was done at the request of the insurer;

 f)     There was no reason for her to do this except to attempt to resolve the claim instead of litigating; and

 g)   There is no suggestion that the delay was a tactical decision to delay the proceeding.

[25]           Moreover, the courts have recognized that there is a clear policy objective to encourage parties to resolve matters instead of going directly to litigation.  Waiting for the appeal to be determined is consistent with that important policy objective.

The Divisional Court rejected Western’s argument:

[50]           For the reasons set out herein, we find that the motion judge was correct to hold that the triggering event for the commencement of the two-year limitation period was the date upon which it would be legally appropriate to commence legal proceedings to seek payment of long-term disability benefits that the insurer refused to pay.

[51]           We further find that the motion judge made no palpable and overriding error in dismissing the motion for summary judgment on the basis that Western had not established that the claim was statute-barred.  We come to this conclusion for the following reasons:

(i)                 Right of Appeal

[52]           Before March 7, 2013, Ms. Penttila was advised that as of March 7, her benefits would no longer be paid by the insurer but that, “you may appeal this claim decision by sending your written request for review to our office within 60 days from the date of this letter.”

[53]           On April 8, 2013, Ms. Penttila advised that, “I wish to appeal this claim.”

[54]           On November 13, 2013, Western wrote her to advise that: “[u]pon receipt of all the above requested information, we will complete our review of your appeal and advise you of the decision.”

[55]           Ms. Penttila thereby accepted a clear offer to allow her to appeal the denial of her claim for benefits.  A process was established, and her appeal was determined by the insurer.  She was advised by letter dated October 21, 2014, of the decision that her appeal had been rejected.  (Ms. Penttila says she did not receive written confirmation until June 15, 2015.)

[56]           The right to appeal was not simply part of an insurer’s general obligation to accept any material; it was a specific and agreed right of appeal, a clear articulation of the process to be followed, and a specific decision in respect of the appeal.

[57]           A reasonable person in Ms. Penttila’s position would have pursued her right of appeal.  Until that process ran its course, it would be premature to commence legal proceedings against the insurer.

(ii)               No Need to Review the Tone and Tenor of Discussions

[58]           The court was not required to assess the “tone and tenor” of communications between the parties as there was a clear beginning and end to the process.  Western told Ms. Penttila that she had a right to appeal and that a decision would be rendered, and it was.

(iii)            No Litigation Counsel Engaged

[59]           Ms. Penttila did not retain counsel while the appeal was ongoing. This fact does not “[belie] any suggestion of a lack of awareness of the appropriateness of commencing a lawsuit at that point in time”: Pepper, at para. 1.

[60]           The words “in offering to review additional evidence we are not waiving our right to rely on any statutory or policy provisions including any time limitations”, in this factual context, were not sufficiently clear to demonstrate to Ms. Penttila that the insurer intended to rely on the fact that the limitation period was running before the appeal had been decided.

(iv)            Ms. Penttila’s Evidence as to Her Belief

[61]           On the contrary, Ms. Penttila’s uncontradicted sworn evidence was that she at all times believed that, from the time the initial benefits were denied (in the letter dated February 19, 2013), to the time she received the final decision on appeal, Western was considering her appeal.

[62]           This belief is supported by the fact that, on November 13, 2013, Western advised that: “[u]pon receipt of all the above requested information, we will complete our review of your appeal and advise you of the decision.”  There was no statement in respect of time limitations.

[63]           Lastly, unlike Nasr, Ms. Penttila never conceded that the insurer never told her that it would not be relying on a limitations defence.

(v)               No Tactical Delay

[64]           Ms. Penttila made good faith efforts to avoid unnecessary litigation believing Western was considering her appeal. There is no suggestion that Ms. Penttila engaged in a tactical delay of the proceeding.

(vi)            Meets the Policy Objectives

[65]           The motion judge’s decision is consistent with the policy objective of avoiding unnecessary litigation and discouraging parties from rushing to litigation, provided there is no tactical delay.

The court also provided a good summary of the principles for assessing the appropriateness of a proceeding against an insurer:

[35]           In assessing when it is legally “appropriate” to bring a proceeding within the meaning of s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Limitations Act, 2002, the courts have articulated the following guidelines:

a)      The determination of whether legal action is “legally appropriate” takes into account what a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff ought to have known: Presidential, at para. 18.

b)      Parties should be discouraged from rushing to litigation or arbitration.  Rather, they should be encouraged to resolve claims as courts take a dim view of unnecessary litigation: Markel Insurance Company of Canada v. ING Insurance Company of Canada2012 ONCA 218 (CanLII)109 O.R. (3d) 652, at para. 34; and 407 ETR, at para. 48.

c)      It is premature for a party to bring a court proceeding to seek a remedy if a statutory dispute resolution process offers an adequate alternative remedy and that process has not fully run its course or been exhaustive: Volochay v. College of Massage Therapists of Ontario2012 ONCA 541 (CanLII)111 O.R. (3d) 561, at paras. 61-70.

d)      However, where the insurer has been clear that it intends to rely on the limitation period, and the claim has “ripened”, the court should be wary of getting involved in assessing the “tone and tenor of communications” to determine where and when there was a denial of the claim by the insurer as this would inject an undesirable element of uncertainty into the law of limitation of actions: Markel, at para. 34.

e)      The courts should also be wary of allowing a party to delay the commencement of proceedings simply for tactical reasons: 407ETR, at para. 47; and Markel, at para. 34.

f)        It is appropriate for the court to consider what was communicated to the insured and whether the claim was clearly and unequivocally denied: Kassburg v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada2014 ONCA 922 (CanLII)124 O.R. (3d) 171, at para. 42.

g)      The courts have specifically recognized two circumstances in which the issue of “appropriate means” may delay the date on which a claim was discovered.

•         First, where the insured relies on the superior knowledge and expertise of the insurer, especially where the insurer made efforts to ameliorate the loss.

•         Second, where other proceedings remain ongoing (such as criminal proceedings or arbitration): Presidential, at paras. 28-48.

h)      Where an insured seeks to preclude an insurer from relying on a limitations defence on the basis of promissory estoppel, the insurer’s conduct must amount to a promise on which the insured acted to its detriment: Maracle v. Travellers Indemnity Co. of Canada, 1991 CanLII 58 (SCC)[1991] 2 S.C.R. 50; and Marchischuk v. Dominion Industrial Supplies Ltd., 1991 CanLII 59 (SCC)[1991] 2 S.C.R. 61.


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: CA confirms insurers have no duty to disclose limitation period

In Usanovic v. Penncorp Life Insurance Company (La Capitale Financial Security Insurance Company), Court of Appeal has confirmed that an insurer’s duty of good faith does not require it to give notice of the limitation period to its insured.  While the legislatures of some provinces have imposed a statutory obligation to this effect on insurers, Ontario has not.  Whether it should is a matter for the legislature.

We wrote about the lower court decision here.

This was the plaintiff’s argument on appeal:

[20]      The appellant submits, however, that the insurer’s failure to inform him of the limitation period precludes it from relying on the limitation period to defend his claim. He submits that the insurer’s common law duty of good faith and fair dealing should require it to inform the insured of the existence of the limitation period.

[21]      The appellant concedes that there is no statutory obligation to this effect in Ontario. He submits, however, that this obligation flows from the insurer’s duty to give the same consideration to the insured’s interest as it does to its own interests and can be imposed through the development of the common law and need not be based on statute.

Justice Strathy rejected this argument:

[45]      The Ontario legislature might have gone further than it has, for example, by adopting the approach taken in Alberta or British Columbia. It presumably chose not to do so and, in my respectful view, the court should not impose consumer protection measures on insurers, outside the terms of their policies, that the legislature has not seen fit to require. A properly crafted regime, such as those in effect in Alberta and British Columbia, would not only have to specify the requirement to give notice, but also the consequences of failing to do so.

[46]      The consequences of the appellant’s proposed expansion of the duty of good faith are significant. The appellant’s interpretation would effectively judicially overrule the provisions of the Limitations Act, 2002 by making notice given by an insurer to an insured the trigger for the limitation period, rather than discoverability of the underlying claim. This would defeat the purpose of the statute and bring ambiguity, rather than clarity, to the process.

Ontario: It’s still a two-year limitation period for IRB claims


In Bonilla v. Preszler,  the appellant argued that the respondent’s termination notice for her Income Replacement Benefits was not clear and unequivocal and that the applicable limitation period was “rolling”.  This was a futile position and the Court of Appeal rejected it.

[10]      It is well established in this court’s case law that the limitation period is triggered by a single event, which is the refusal of an insurer to pay the IRB claimed: see e.g. Bonaccorso v. Optimum Insurance Company Inc., 2016 ONCA 34 (CanLII), 129 O.R. (3d) 544 and Sietzema v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, 2014 ONCA 111 (CanLII), 118 O.R. (3d) 713. The appellant was informed on February 4, 2003 that she would not receive IRB after February 27, 2003. Even taking the later of these two dates, February 27, 2003, as the date of the refusal, the two-year limitation period expired February 27, 2005. The appellant’s action is several years late.

[11]      The appellant submits that this court’s prior cases are either distinguishable or are wrongly decided and offers several arguments in support. She submits that the limitation period covers only the amount of a benefit claimed, and not the nature of the benefit; that the cause of action for IRB is an “entitlement to indemnification”; that the amount claimed is limited to an amount accrued or crystallized, rather than future benefits; and that the common law discoverability rule applies.

[12]      We do not accept any of these arguments. In our view the operation of the limitation period under the legislation is clear and straightforward. It is well settled in the case law of this court, and it would be inappropriate for a three-judge panel of the court to overrule a prior decision of the court in any event. We note that the appellant requested, and was denied, a five-judge panel for this appeal.

Ontario: insurers have no obligation to give notice of the limitation period

In Usanovic v. La Capitale Life Insurance Company, the plaintiff argued that the defendant insurer owed him a duty of good faith that included an obligation to provide him with notice of the limitation period.

Justice Broad rejected this argument in a well-reasoned decision.  After reviewing the jurisprudence, he concluded that no such obligation exists:

[40]           It would appear that, at its highest, the obligation of good faith and fair dealing arguably carries with it a positive obligation on an insurer to inform its insured of the nature of the benefits available under the policy. There is a marked difference, however, between imposing on an insurer a positive obligation to advise with respect to rights and benefits internal to the policy and the imposition of an obligation to advise with respect to the application of law external to the policy, such as pursuant to the Limitations Act.

[41]           In my view the court should be circumspect in extending the common law to impose positive obligations of general application on parties, particularly where the implications of so doing are unknown. The law of insurance is broadly occupied by legislation and in my view it should be left to the legislature to regulate, if it deems it necessary and appropriate, the nature and extent of information which must be given by insurers to their insureds upon denial of benefits, including the existence and details of applicable limitation periods.

[42]           I find that there was no obligation in law on the defendant to advise the plaintiff of the applicable limitation period in the Limitations Act.

The decision also includes a good overview of the jurisprudence considering whether a denial of benefits is clear and unequivocal.  See paras. 20-28.


Ontario: no, Schmitz v. Lombard hasn’t been overturned

For the insurance bar, two points are worth noting in Justice Faieta’s decision in Buurman v. The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company.

First, the limitation periods in section 5.9.3 of OAP 1, section 8(3) of the Schedule to Ontario Regulation 676, and section 17 of OPCF 44R don’t trump the basic section 4 limitation period in the Limitations Act.  This is because these limitation periods are not included in the Limitations Act’s section 19 schedule.  This seems self-evident, but the defendant apparently thought it was an argument worth venturing.

Second, unsurprisingly, Justice Faieta found that the Court of Appeal decision in Lingard v. Milne-McIsaac didn’t overturn its decision Schmitz v. Lombard, which remains binding:   

[17]           Dominion submits that the last sentence of paragraph 11 of the Lingard decision should be read as deciding that the limitation period for a claim for indemnity against an insurer under OCPF 44R begins when the insured discovers that the other vehicle was uninsured …

[18]           It is my view that Schmitz was not overturned in Lingard for at least two reasons.  First, the focus of the Lingard decision was not whether the limitation period had expired.  The issue before the Court was whether the Plaintiff had acted diligently in seeking to add its insurer as a Defendant.  Accordingly, the Court’s findings regarding the commencement of the limitation period appear to be obiter.  On the other hand, in Schmitz the sole issue before the Court was the time at which the limitation period begins to run for an indemnity claim under OCPF 44R.  Second, unlike Schmitz, in Lingard the Court’s finding regarding the commencement of the limitation period is unsupported by any analysis.  Nor does it appear that Schmitz was drawn to the Court’s attention in Lingard.

Newfoundland and Labrador: The Commencement of the limitation period for breach of an insurance indemnity

In Tucker v. Unknown Person, the Court of Appeal held that in a claim for breach of indemnity pursuant to an insurance contract, the limitation period begins on the date of the insured’s loss of the right to be indemnified. This loss occurs when the insurer refuses to pay. Refusal occurs on the earlier of an express refusal or the day after the insured demands indemnification and does not receive it.

In arriving at its decision, the Court followed the Ontario Court of Appeal decisions in Markel and Schmitz. It’s notable that Ontario jurisprudence is influencing the direction of Newfoundland and Labrador’s limitations law because they have fundamentally different limitations regimes. Ontario is one of the “reformed” jurisdictions. Broadly speaking, these are jurisdictions with one general and ultimate limitation period and codified discovery rules. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it remains necessary to classify the action to determine the applicable limitation period and, where appropriate, to apply the common law principle of discoverability. Nevertheless, the Court’s adoption of Ontario limitation law indicates that reform, if only de facto, is at work.

Ontario: the limitations jurisprudence of 2014 in review

This post is a paper I wrote for LawPro on the year’s limitations jurisprudence.  It may be of interest to Under the Limit readers; if you’d like a PDF version , just ask.

The limitations jurisprudence of 2014 in review

Dan Zacks[1]

January 1, 2014 marked ten years since the Limitations Act, 2002 came into force. Now many aspects of the old limitations regime are forgotten, or will be soon. Consider for instance the classification of actions. Once a key step in the limitations analysis, it is barely remembered, and rarely fondly.[2]

Meanwhile, the courts have developed an extensive body of jurisprudence interpreting and applying the new Act. To be sure, this jurisprudence remains in development. Many of 2014’s leading decisions consider fundamental limitations issues arising from the Limitations Act for the first time. For example, in 2014 we learned from the Court of Appeal how a plaintiff should plead a discoverability argument (by reply), and that there is no legislative gap that would prevent the Limitations Act from applying to claims for unjust enrichment (Collins v. Cortez and McConnell v. Huxtable respectively, both discussed below). The Superior Court also delivered decisions of consequence, in particular by confirming that the Limitations Act applies to will challenges (Leibel v. Leibel, also discussed below).

While it is difficult to identify definite trends in the year’s limitations jurisprudence, several lower court decisions point toward an increasing receptiveness to boundary-pushing discovery analyses. In one case, the “no, I won’t pay my 407 toll” decision, the Court found that proportionality can be a factor when determining whether a plaintiff has discovered that a proceeding is an appropriate means to seek a remedy.[3] In another somewhat eccentric case, the Court found that, pursuant to “cultural dimension theory”, being Slovenian can determine when a plaintiff discovers her claim.[4] It will be interesting to see whether courts follow either of these decisions, and more generally, whether they remain open to creative discovery arguments.

What follows is a summary of the more consequential Ontario limitations decisions from 2014. For mostly up-to-date reporting on this year’s limitations jurisprudence, you are welcome to visit limitations.ca.

McConnell v. Huxtable: In which the Court of Appeal says yes, a claim for unjust enrichment is subject to the Limitations Act[5]

McConnell is a family law decision involving an unmarried couple. The applicant made a constructive trust claim for an ownership interest in the respondent’s house and, in the alternative, for compensation in money. The respondent sought the dismissal of the claim on the basis that it was barred by the expiry of the limitation period.

The motion judge’s 2013 decision[6] was sensational, at least in the rather staid world of limitations. In thorough and persuasive reasons, Justice Perkins held that the discovery provisions of the Limitations Act cannot apply to a remedial constructive trust based on a claim of unjust enrichment. Taken to its logical conclusion, this meant that in a great many circumstances, only the equitable doctrine of laches and acquiescence would limit a claim for unjust enrichment.

A limitation period commences when the injured party discovers the claim within the meaning of section 5 of the Limitations Act. Justice Perkins concluded that a claim for constructive trust is not in all circumstances discoverable as contemplated by this section. If a claim is not discoverable, the limitation period will never commence. If the limitation period never commences, there is no limitation period. This is how he described the problem:

I think that section 5(1)(a) makes it impossible to know when if ever the limitation [period] would start running because the claimant may never (reasonably) know of a “loss, damage or injury” and because there is no act or omission of the respondent that the claimant is required to or is even able to point to in order to “discover” a claim for a constructive trust. Claims to recover land aside, the Limitations Act, 2002 may have been meant to but does not manage to encompass constructive trust claims. I am unable to give effect to the precise and detailed wording of sections 4 and 5 so as to make them apply to constructive trusts in family law cases.[7]

Not surprisingly, Justice Rosenberg, writing for the Court of Appeal, disagreed, and held that there is no legislative gap:

I do not agree with the motion judge that a remedial constructive trust claim does not require any act or omission by the person against whom the claim is brought. Generally speaking, a claim of unjust enrichment requires that the defendant retain a benefit without juristic reason in circumstances where the claimant suffers a corresponding deprivation. In other words, the relevant act of the defendant is simply the act of keeping the enrichment (or the omission to pay it back) once the elements of the unjust enrichment claim have crystallized. In the family law context, this may typically occur on the date of separation, when shared assets, including real property, are divided and the possibility therefore arises of one party holding onto more than a fair share.[8]

Justice Rosenberg acknowledged that in some cases it may be difficult to apply section 5 to a claim for unjust enrichment, but it applies nonetheless. Even if the difficulty means the claim is never discovered, the ultimate limitation period will still limit it. This is sound reasoning, but terribly disappointing to the plaintiffs’ bar, who had begun to think very hard about how to make every old claim one for unjust enrichment.

McConnell also brings clarity to the application of the Real Property Limitations Act. The fact that the respondent sought a monetary award in the alternative to an interest in land did not mean that the claim wasn’t for a share of property, and subject to section 4 of the Real Property Limitations Act with its plaintiff-friendly ten year limitation period.[9]

Longo v. McLaren Art Centre: The Plaintiff must not delay, not even for Rodin[10]

This Court of Appeal decision written by Justice Hourigan quickly became a leading authority on the duty imposed by the Limitations Act on plaintiffs to investigate potential claims. It is already much-cited by defendants when arguing that a plaintiff was dilatory in discovering their claim and, more specifically, when envoking section 5(1)(b) of the Act.

Justice Hourigan’s reasoning is not especially novel; rather, he adopts a line of discoverability jurisprudence developed under the previous Act exemplified by Soper v. Southcott (1998)[11]. In essence, a plaintiff must take reasonable action to investigate the matters described in section 5(1)(a) of the Act. What is reasonable depends on the plaintiff’s circumstances and the nature of the potential claim. However, it is never necessary for the plaintiff to investigate to the point where she knows with certainty that a potential defendant is responsible for the impugned acts or omissions. It is enough that she has prima facie grounds to infer that the potential defendant caused the acts or omissions. Establishing these grounds may require an expert report.[12]

Longo has almost glamorous facts.   At issue was the appellants’ discovery of damage to their sculpture Walking Man, possibly the work of Rodin. The sculpture was harmed while in the respondents’ care and the appellants claimed for damages. The court dismissed the claim on motion for summary judgment on the basis that it was commenced out of time.

Justice Hourigan set aside the decision of the motion judge and held that there was a genuine issue requiring a trial. Determining whether a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the appellants ought to have discovered the claim required a full trial record. Justice Hourigan nevertheless shared his view on what was appropriate in the circumstances. On learning of concerns about the condition of Walking Man, a reasonable person would arrange for an inspection of the sculpture.


Collins v. Cortez: Respond with a reply[13]

This decision is a primer on how pleadings should address a limitations defence, which is often a point of confusion for counsel.

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 Limitation Act that the limitation period commenced on the date of the accident. He held that because Collins did not plead discoverability facts in her Statement of Claim, she could not make out a section 5(1) discoverability argument.

Not so, held the Court of Appeal. In the normal course, if a limitations defence is raised in a Statement of Defence, and the plaintiff relies on the discoverability principle, the plaintiff should plead the material facts relevant to discoverability in reply, not the 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, a plaintiff needn’t anticipate discoverability and address it in her Statement of Claim.

Leibel v. Leibel: Two year to challenge a will[14]

Since the Limitations Act came into force, the estates bar has speculated as to whether a limitation period applies to will challenges. Many thought that it would not, based in part on an influential article by Anne Werker on limitation periods in estate actions:

It has been suggested that the 15-year absolute limitation period applies to will challenges. I do not agree. Section 16(1)(a) of the new Act expressly states that there is no limitation period in respect of “a proceeding for a declaration if no consequential relief is sought”. [15]

The courts have tended increasingly toward asserting the application of the Limitations Act, and it came to seem likely a court would apply the Act to a will challenge. This is what Justice Greer did in Leibel.

The case involved two wills. The testatrix’s son Blake applied for a declaration that the wills were invalid, and another son and other respondents moved for an order dismissing the application on the basis that it was statute-barred by the expiry of the limitation period.

Justice Greer held that the limitation period began running in June 2011, the date of the testatrix’s death, because a will speaks from death. However, Blake discovered his claim within the meaning of the Limitation Act about a month later in July 2011 (for reasons that don’t bear mentioning here, but are at paragraph 39 of the decision). This meant that he commenced his application out of time.

In particular, Justice Greer rejected Blake’s argument that no limitation period applied to his will challenge pursuant to section 16(1)(a). She held that the legislature did not intend for section 16(1)(a) to exclude will challenges from the two-year limitation period:

To say that every next-of-kin has an innate right to bring on a will challenge at any time as long as there are assets still undistributed or those that can be traced, would put all Estate Trustees in peril of being sued at any time. There is a reason why the Legislature replaced the six-year limitation in favour of a two-year limitation.[16]

Kassburg v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada: In business agreements, the party isn’t literal[17]

Kassburg demonstrates the Court’s commitment to protecting individuals from contracts that impose shortened limitation periods. It deals with section 22(5) of the Limitations Act, which permits contracting out of the statutory limitation period through “business agreements” unless one of the parties to the contract is an individual. Rather than limiting the word “parties” in this section to its literal meaning, the Court of Appeal instructs us to adopt a meaning consistent with the objective of protecting individuals from unexpectedly or unfairly abridged limitation periods.

Kassburg was an insured under a group policy issued by the appellant Sun Life to the North Bay Police Association. The respondent submitted a claim for long-term disability benefits that Sun Life denied.

She commenced an action claiming entitlement to the benefits. Sun Life moved for summary judgment on the basis that her claim was out of time. Among other things, Sun Life relied on a one-year limitation period contained in the insurance contract. It argued that this was a limitation period subject to section 22(5).

The motion judge held that the insurance policy fit within the business agreement exception. Because the parties to the insurance contract were the Police Association and the appellant, the contract was not entered into by an individual.

Justice van Rensburg rejected this reasoning. The word “parties” in section 22(5) must be given a broad, purposive reading. The literal reading of “parties” is inconsistent with the objective of section 22, which is to restrict the circumstances in which a contract can alter the statutory limitation periods in the Limitations Act. Although the group insurance contract under which Kassburg made her claim was between the Police Association and Sun Life, Justice van Rensburg deemed Kassburg to be a party for the purpose of asserting her claim, and for Sun Life’s limitations defence.[18]

Green v. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce: Plaintiffs must fully control whether they commence an action in time[19]

In Green, the Court of Appeal overturned its decision in Sharma v. Timminco (2012)[20], thus restoring peace and order to the limitation scheme under the Securities Act. [21]

Timminco created a distinctively perverse phenomenon in limitations jurisprudence: a limitation period that did not allow plaintiffs to control whether they commenced an action in time. As Justice Feldman noted in her decision for the Court of Appeal, this was unprecedented and entirely foreign to the concept of limitations.

At issue in both cases was the statutory cause of action in section 138.3 of the Securities Act. This section creates a cause of action for misrepresentations regarding shares trading in the secondary market. A plaintiff, most often a representative plaintiff in a class proceeding, can only commence a section 138.3 claim with leave. Pursuant to section 138, a plaintiff has three years from the date of the misrepresentation to obtain leave and commence the action. [22]

The Timminco Court held that a claim for damages under section 138.3 is statute-barred if the plaintiff does not obtain leave to commence it within the three-year limitation period, and that section 28 of the Class Proceedings Act[23], which suspends limitation periods in favour of class members once a claim is asserted in a class proceeding, will not operate in respect of a 138.3 claim until leave is obtained.

The Timminco Court reasoned that a section 138.3 claim is “asserted” within the meaning of section 28 of the Class Proceedings Act only when leave is granted because leave is a component of the cause of action. Given the dictionary definitions before the Court of “assert”, this conclusion was sound, at least in theory.

In practice, it was problematic. Its effect was to require representative plaintiffs to move for and obtain leave to commence a section 138.3 claim within three years, but the plaintiffs could not control the timeliness. Obtaining leave within three years was challenging, if not impossible.

This limitation period is not subject to the discoverability provisions of the Limitations Act because it commences on the date of the misrepresentation. The longer it takes to discover the misrepresentation, the shorter the time for obtaining leave and commencing the action. Even if a plaintiff brought the motion in good time, the defendant could initiate procedural steps resulting in delay, and court availability could affect the timing of the hearing and the rendering of the decision.

And so the Court reversed itself. Justice Feldman set aside the Timminco Court’s interpretation of the Class Proceedings Act, holding instead that when a representative plaintiff brings a section 138.3 claim within the limitation period, pleads section 138.3 together with the facts that found the claim, and pleads an intent to seek leave to commence, the claim has been “asserted” for the purposes of the Class Proceedings Act, and the limitation period is thereby suspended for all class members.

This decision is obviously of great significance to the securities bar, but beyond that, it preserves the fundamental principle of limitations that a plaintiff must have unilateral control over whether it misses a limitation period.


And for the insurance bar…

Lastly, several insurance decisions bear noting.

From Sagan v. Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company, we learned that time begins to run for a claim for denied accident benefits on the date of the denial.  A party can’t stop the commencement of the limitation period by sneakily (or inadvertently) omitting certain documents from the accident benefits application.[24]

In Sietzema v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company,[25] the Court of Appeal held that the limitation period begins to run for a claim for statutory accident benefits when the insurer denies the application for those benefits.

In Schmitz v. Lombard General Insurance Company of Canada[26], the court determined when the limitation period commences for a claim for indemnity under OPCF 44R, an optional endorsement for underinsured motorist coverage to the standard form automobile insurance policy. The limitation period does not start to run when the demand for indemnity is made because default must first occur. The limitation period begins to run the day after the demand for indemnity is made.

[1] Dan is a contributor to the upcoming fourth edition of The Law of Limitations and a lawyer at Clyde & Co. His practice focuses on commercial litigation and lawyers’ professional negligence. He also publishes Under the Limit, a blog about developments in the always riveting world of limitations jurisprudence.

[2] This is subject to the occasional exception. See for example Economical Mutual Insurance Company v. Zurich Insurance Company, 2014 ONSC 4763, in which the Court undertakes a classification of actions analysis, presumably out of nostalgia.

[3] See 407 ETR Concession Company v. Ira J. Day, 2014 ONSC 6409.

[4] See Miletic v. Jaksic, 2014 ONSC 5043 and the related post on Under the Limit, <http://limitations.ca/?p=19>.

[5] 2014 ONCA 86.

[6] 2013 ONSC 948.

[7] 2013 ONSC 948 at para. 143.

[8] 2014 ONCA 86 at para. 51.

[9] Conversely, the mere fact that a claim affects real property will not exclude the application of the Limitations Act. See Zabanah v. Capital Direct Lending, 2014 ONCA 872.

[10] 2014 ONCA 526 (“Longo”).

[11] 1998 CanLII 5359 (Ont. C.A.).

[12] See Longo, supra note 1, at paras. 41-44.

[13] 2014 ONCA 685.

[14] 2014 ONSC 4516.

[15] Anne Werker, “Limitation Periods in Ontario and Claims by Beneficiaries”, (2008) 34:1 Advocates’ Q at 24-28.

[16] 2014 ONSC 4516 at para. 52.

[17] 2014 ONCA 922.

[18] 2014 ONCA 922 at paras. 58-61.

[19] 2014 ONCA 90.

[20] 2012 ONCA 107.

[21] R.S.O. 1990, C. S.5.

[22] See also section 19 of the Limitations Act, 2002.

[23] S.O. 1992, C. 6.

[24]2014 ONCA 720.

[25] 2014 ONCA 111.

[26] 2014 ONCA 88.