Most cases have a deadline to formally commence a lawsuit called the “limitation period”. If this deadline is missed, the case may be over before it is started.
For most civil cases, the limitation period is two years following the incident giving rise to the case, but this may vary depending on the circumstances of the case. While limitation periods are generally governed by the Limitations Act, there are also other statutes which provide for different periods depending on the particular area of law and circumstances.
Order Suspending Limitations Period due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 20, 2020, the Ontario government suspended most limitation periods retroactive to March 16, 2020 until further notice. This Order was done under s. 7.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and the text can be found here.
The laws that enable this suspension to last a maximum of 90 days before it has to be renewed. No end date has been set yet. There may also be a grace period after the suspension is lifted, but nothing has been stated about it yet.
This suspension means that you may still have time to commence your case if the limitations deadline on your case was after March 16, 2020. If you fall under this category, contact a lawyer immediately. While limitations are suspended, it is best to act quickly to avoid future issues arising.
Suspension does not affect the Construction Act
In a later Order, the Ontario Government has clarified that this suspension does not apply to the Construction Act. See the amending order here.
Avoiding Limitations Period Issues
If there is one thing that keeps lawyers up at night, it is limitations periods. We review each case to determine the limitation deadline three times over, and then set calendar warnings three times over. We obsess over limitation periods.
Missing a limitations deadline can potentially cause irreparable harm to a case. As there are many factors that go into determining the deadline, it is vital that you discuss your case with a lawyer to make sure that you do not lose your right to start an action.
While limitation periods are suspended, we continue to commence actions whenever the court with jurisdiction allows for online filing, so as to be maximally safe, and so as not to delay your case.