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The Limitations Act, 2002 came into effect on January 1, 2004. Print our Table of Limitation Periods and commentary for your quick reference.

No Limitation Periods*

*It is a common misconception that a claim grounded in fraud has no limitation period.  Civil litigators who should ever have occasion to represent a plaintiff bringing a fraud action - as well as those representing a defendant on the receiving end of a fraud action - should know that the two year limitation applies to these cases.  Of course, the very nature of fraudulent activity means that the actions of the wrongdoer were at one point being deliberately concealed.  Thus, the discoverability principles will likely be in play when determining the commencement of the limitation period.  For some appellate level cases on this issue, see: Dynamic Fuel Systems Inc. v. Synergic Distribution Inc., [2013] O.J. No. 2708, 2013 ONSC 4081, 2013 CarswellOnt 7897, 229 A.C.W.S. (3d) 95 (Div. Ct.) and Portuguese Canadian Credit Union Ltd. (Liquidator of) v. Pires, [2012] O.J. No. 2215, 2012 ONCA 335, 2012 CarswellOnt 6250, 216 A.C.W.S. (3d) 473 (C.A.).

Special Circumstances

Until the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Joseph v. Paramount Canada’s Wonderland (2008), 90 O.R. (3d) 401 (C.A.), many lawyers in Ontario thought they could still rely on the common law doctrine of special circumstances, which gave the Court the discretion to extend a limitation period after its expiration, if special circumstances existed. The Court of Appeal in Joseph has unequivocally pronounced that the doctrine no longer applies under the new Limitations Act, 2002.  Click to read a full article on this case.

Discoverability & Pleadings

See the case of Collins v. Cortez, [2014] O.J. No. 4753, 2014 ONCA 685 (C.A.) in which the Court of Appeal confirmed that plaintiffs do not have to anticipate a limitations defence by pleading the material facts relevant to discoverability in the statement of claim.  In this case, the motions judge dismissed the action at a summary judgment motion because the claim was commenced more than 2 years after the motor vehicle accident, and the statement of claim did not plead the facts relevant to discoverability.  The Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff’s appeal of the dismissal, and ordered her to deliver her reply, which, it held, is the appropriate place for the plaintiff to plead discoverability if a limitations defence is raised in the statement of defence.

See the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Pioneer Corp. v. Godfrey, 2019 SCC 42, a class action case brought under the Competition Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-34, which clarifies that the discoverability rule is not a universally applicable rule of limitations, but a rule of construction to aid in the interpretation of statutory limitation periods. It can therefore be displaced by clear legislative language.

The Appropriate Means

As part of discoverability, keep in mind s. 5(1)(a)(iv) of the Limitations Act, 2002 which states that a claim may be 'discovered' when the plaintiff first knew that a proceeding would be an appropriate means to remedy the injury, loss, or damage. Most recently, this argument was successful in Presley v. Van Dusen, 2019 ONCA 66. The Ontario Court of Appeal in that case held that the plaintiff homeowners, who had a septic system installed by the defendant contractors in 2010 and noticed problems with it as early as 2011, were entitled to rely on the expertise of the contractor, who attempted to remedy the problem over the years, before determining that a lawsuit was required to properly remedy the problem. It was held that the claim, commenced in 2015, was not statute-barred.

Pursuant to Section 16 of the Limitations Act, 2002, there are no limitation periods in respect of the following proceedings:

Civil Remedies
Forfeiture order under s. 8 (property) or 11.2 (vehicle) of the Civil Remedies Act, 2001
Debtor/creditor in possession of collateral to redeem/realize it
16(1)(f), (g)
Court order
Enforcement of a court order
Recovery of money owing to the Crown re. fines, taxes, penalties and interest
16(1)(i), (j) (2) and (3)
Declaration, if not seeking consequential relief
See Crown above re. Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997
16(1)(j)(ii) and (2)
Economic Development
See Crown above re. economic development loans
16(1)(j), (2) and (3)
Undiscovered environmental claims
Health Programs
See Social Assistance below
16(1)(j), (2) and (3)
Medical Resident Loans
Recovery of money owing re. loans, awards or grants under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act or the Canada Student Loans Act
Sexual Assault
Any claim for secual assault
Sexual Misconduct
Where the victim was a minor, or the relationship between the parties meets certain criteria
Where the victim was a minor, or the parties were in an 'intimate relationship', or the victim was dependant on the defendant
Social Assistance
See Crown above re. reimbursement of money paid re. social, health or economic programs or policies as a result of fraud, misrepresentation, error or inadvertence
16(1)(j), (2) and (3)
Student Loans
See Medical Resident Loans above
16(1)(k) and (3)
Obtaining or enforcing support under the FLA or domestic contract
See Crown above re. Ontario Works Act, 1997
16(1)(j)(ii), (2) and (3)