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Simon Shields, LLB

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Limitations - Interpretation

Fennell v. Deol (Ont CA, 2016)

In this MVA case the Court of Appeal considers the role of due diligence in the application of the main two-year limitation period:
[20] The basic two-year limitation period begins to run on the day the claim was discovered. The date of discovery is the earlier of the two dates under s. 5(1) – when (a) the person with the claim had knowledge of, or (b) a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the person with the claim first ought to have had knowledge of, the matters referred to in s. 5(1)(a)(i) to (iv). If either of these dates is more than two years before the claim was issued, the claim is statute-barred.

[21] Section 5(1)(a) considers when the person with the claim had actual knowledge of the material facts underlying the claim. Unless the contrary is proved, under s. 5(2), the person is presumed to have known of the matters in s. 5(1)(a)(i) through (iv) on the date of the events giving rise to the claim.

[22] I pause here to note that, in the present case the key consideration was when Fennell knew or a reasonable person with his abilities and in his circumstances ought to have known that the impairments from his injuries sustained in the accident were permanent and serious.

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

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


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