We think about law a lot. Sometimes we even write it down.

See all Entries

Posted on February 21st 2006 in Legal Articles

The Clock is Ticking: Legal Limitation Periods

The Clock is Ticking: Legal Limitation Periods

The most highly skilled and knowledgeable lawyer can be of no assistance to the client who has not called him or her until after the limitation period has expired.
Daniel Simmons

In two previous articles, Occupiers’ Liability (Fall 2002) and It’s that time of year again (Winter 2002), we alluded to deadlines for commencing legal action. These deadlines are referred to as limitation periods. In the province of Ontario most claims are subject to a limitation period.1 Once a limitation period expires, the right to sue is lost.

The Law As It Stands Today
Limitation periods currently range from one week to 20 years. Although many of these time limits are set out in Ontario’s Limitations Act, there are many more limitations periods set out in various other laws.

One of the main reasons for limitation periods is to introduce certainty and finality to matters. Without this, the preservation and gathering of evidence, both documents and memories, becomes extremely difficult.

Depending on the situation, a limitation period may start to run at different times. For instance, a limitation period may start to run from

o when the damage occurs;
o when the wrong is discovered; or
o the end of a disability.

Changes In The Wind
In December 2002, the Ontario government introduced Bill 213, the Justice Statute Law Amendment Act, 2002. Among other things this legislation creates a new limitations act which will consolidate limitation periods and dramatically change the law described above. Although, the Justice Statute Law Amendment Act, 2002 received Royal Assent in December, the Limitations Act, 2002 will not actually come into force until 2004.

The Limitations Act, 2002, will replace many of the existing limitation periods with two time limits:
o a basic limitation period of 2 years which starts from the day the person finds out, or should have found out, about the injury, loss or damage he or she suffered and who caused it; and,
o an ultimate limitation period of 15 years after which a claim may be barred, regardless of the plaintiff’s state of knowledge. The period runs from the day the act or omission on which the claim is based takes place.

If you believe you have a legal claim against someone you should speak to one of our lawyers. They can review your situation and advise you. 1

1Many of our readers may have gleaned from American television, the concept of a statute of limitations in connection with criminal matters. It should be noted that in Canada there is no limitation period in respect of criminal offences with the exception of summary conviction offences. Proceedings for summary conviction offences, which include the most minor offences in the Criminal Code, must be instituted within six months after the time the subject-matter of the proceedings arose.