You have a limited time to sue – do you know when that is?

There are numerous situations where a client walks into a law office with a valid issue but is unable to receive the outcome they desire. In this profession, clients do not always get the results they want however they should never be robbed of their day in court due to their claim being prevented by limitation issues. Limitation issues arise when an action is discovered and brought outside the correct time period.

When starting an action, one of the main items to consider is the expiration of the limitation period. Prior to the implementation of the Limitations Act, 2002 (“LA”) the amount of time a claimant had to bring an action depended on the event and type of action. This provided uncertainty to lawyers which in turn provided uncertainty for clients.

With the implementation of the LA, the Ontario government attempted to simplify limitation requirements. The LA provided a general limitation period of two years. This means that a lawsuit must be brought within two years of the day on which the claim was discovered.

While the LA simplified when an action could be brought it provided exceptions to when it did not apply, which can still lead to confusion. One of those exceptions is claims involving real property. Real property is governed by the Real Property Limitations Act (“RPLA”).

The RPLA provides a ten year limitation period for actions dealing with land. Section 4 of the RPLA outlines when a proceeding falls under the RPLA and is subject to a ten year limitation period.

However, not all actions dealing with land fall within the RPLA. A breach of contract while dealing with land will not be subject to the ten year limitation period and would instead fall under the LA. An action or claim for damages must fall within the definition of “land” in the RPLA for it to be covered by the ten year limitation period.

While the difference between the two acts may seem trivial it may be the different between an action involving land being available or being barred. Thus, while you may be under the impression that you have no cause of action due to two years passing since you discovered your claim, if it involves land you may still have a viable cause of action.

In short, when an issue arises, do not delay talking to a legal professional. Lawyers can help you but due to the LA and RPLA, we also have to work within “limits.”

Harman S. Toor, JD
htoor@staging.andriessen.ca

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