Suspension of Limitation Periods During COVID-19 in Ontario

Limitation periods in Ontario are governed by the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24. Generally, a claimant has two years from when the claim arose, or was discovered, to bring a legal action for damages.

O. Reg 73/20 had the effect of suspending limitation periods from March 16, 2020 to September 13, 2020, for a total of 183 days. Accordingly, a limitation period that began running before March 16, 2020 can be extended by 183 days. In McAuley v Canada Post Corporation, 2012 ONSC 4528, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that O. Reg. 73/20 extended all running limitation periods by 183 days. Therefore, all limitation periods which were subject to the regulation, including those that began in between March 16, 2020 and September 13, 2020, were extended by 183 days. 

A cause of action that arose, or was discovered, on or after September 14, 2020 will still be subject to the standard two year limitation period and is not subject to any extension. 

It is unclear whether limitation periods agreed to in a contract of insurance or a commercial contract are subject to this 183-day extension. However, please note that this may not be the case. There is no case law that has arisen that is determinative of the issue. Where a plaintiff has filed a claim outside of a limitation period specified in the contract, an argument should still be made that the plaintiff is barred from advancing their claim. 

Please also note that in Ontario, the Order suspending the limitation periods did not apply to timelines prescribed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. For example, a plaintiff still only had six months for service of a Statement of Claim. 

Sarah Mack