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Greanya Legal Services

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Limitation Periods: Is your time up?

Posted on 6 March, 2015 at 13:35

By Daniel Greanya, BA (Hons.), MA


One major issue that clients are often unaware of is that there are time limits for a Plaintiff’s Claim in Small Claims Court and for other proceedings as well (limitation period). The limitation period varies based on the proceeding, but it does impact a client’s ability to make a claim. In my experience, clients are usually unaware that a limitation period exists. While most of the time the limitation period is not an issue, it is an important factor to consider in deciding when to start a proceeding.


For civil claims at Small Claims Court or in the Superior Court of Justice, the limitation period is generally (there are exceptions) two years from the discovery of a claim. What this means is two years from the time that the Plaintiff knew about the claim or should have known that they suffered a loss and that a Plaintiff’s Claim is the appropriate means to remedy the issue. If the claim is based in contract law for example, the two years would not start when the contract was made, but it would start when the contract is breached, such as when one party fails to meet their contractual obligations. For example, if a business takes out a five year loan from the bank, and makes all payments except for the last year of the agreement, the two year limitation period starts when the business misses its first payment. This two year period is absolute, that is it may not be waived in the interest of justice as limitation periods in court rules can be waived.


While the two year period can not be waived by the court, there are exceptions and exemptions. I will not mention all of them in this article, but I will discuss a few of them. In the first place, where a breach is ongoing, such as a situation where debt payments continue to be missed, you can still claim losses within the two year period even if past losses can not be claimed. In terms of exemptions, many of the exemptions apply to debts, for example, where the debtor acknowledges the existence of the debt in writing, the limitation period resets to the acknowledgement. Similarly, where a debtor agrees to a payment plan for repayment of the debt, the limitation period resets when the agreement is breached.


It is essential that clients are aware of the limitation period for their particular matter, and commence their Claim within the limitation period. A paralegal or lawyer can assist with ensuring that your claim is commenced within the appropriate time, however it is better to get early advice on the issue to know where you stand before it is too late. As a legal professional, there is nothing more disheartening than a client that you are unable to help only because they did not meet the legally mandated timeline. In the realm of the limitation period, the civil limitation period of two years is relatively generous. Limitation periods are routinely shorter. For example, the application period at the Human Rights Tribunal and most application periods at the Landlord and Tenant Board are only one year. Some limitation periods in relation to workplace injury claims are six months.


DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for information only, and is not intended as legal advice or to replace the expertise of a Licenced Paralegal or Lawyer.  For advice on your specific case, contact Greanya Legal Services directly.


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