practicePRO > Practice aids > Limitation periods

A comparison of limitation and notice periods under new and old limitations legislation:

Please note that there is a correction to the mini-table limitations reference card that was mailed out in February 2005. Under the Family Actions/Applications heading, in the right-hand column for Spousal Support, the chart we mailed out stated "No Change". It should read "No limitation period, Limitation Act, 2002, s.16(1)(c)". The above electronic copy of the table has been updated.

Limitations Act 2002

The Limitations Act, 2002 was passed in December 2002 and came into force on January 1, 2004. View the text of the Act from the E-Laws Web site. This legislation represents a huge reform of the existing law of limitations. Lawyers are encouraged to become familiar with the provisions of the new Act.

For most causes of action the new Act provides that there is a basic two-year limitation period running from the day that the claim is discovered. This basic limitation period replaces the general limitations periods found in the old Limitations Act, as well as many of the numerous special limitation periods found in other statues. All claims are presumptively subject to this general two-year limitation period, unless otherwise specifically provided in the new Act. The provisions under Part 1 of the old Act relating to real property remains in force and has been renamed The Real Property Limitations Act. There is a schedule to the new Act that contains a list of special limitations periods contained in other statutes, which will also remain in force.

Section 5 of the new act codifies the discoverability principle. This effectively provides that the limitation is postponed until the wronged party knows, or ought to know with reasonable diligence of the facts underpinning the cause of action. There is a rebuttable presumption that a claim is discovered on the day the act or omission on which the claim is based took place. There are provisions suspending the running of the limitation period for incapable persons (including minors), and in cases of sexual assault.

The concept of an ultimate limitation period is introduced by section 15(2) which provides that no proceeding shall be commenced in respect of any claim more than 15 years after the day on which the act or omission on which the claim is based took place. Accordingly, even if a claim has not been discovered within 15 years of the occurrence which gave rise to the claim, an action commenced after the 15th anniversary of that occurrence will be statute barred.

For a more detailed review of the Act see this article written by Graeme Mew of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

Section 24 of the Act contains transition rules which apply to claims based on acts or omissions that took place before January 1, 2004, and in respect of which no proceeding had been commenced before that date. If the claim was not discovered before January 1, 2004, the new Act applies as if the act or omission had taken place on this date. Click here for a chart that summarizes the transition rules set forth in Section 24 of the Act. It was prepared by Pat Peloso and Jennifer Arrigo, both of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

If a claim was discovered before the effective date, January 1, 2004, the former limitation period applies. A detailed table comparing commonly encountered limitation and notice periods under the new and old Acts is available here. A mini 2 page reference table summarizing the detailed table is available here.


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