Limitation periods come and go.
That, in five words, is the problem. For the general practice lawyer and litigator, limitation periods are the bane of our existence. In the days when we relied on paper “tickler” systems, compliance often depended on the diligence of the office clerk assigned to keep track of them. Now with electronic calendars, iPhone or Blackberry alerts, it is pretty much up to each lawyer to ensure limitation periods are brought to your notice in a timely way. You can have an assistant or clerk set it up, but the negligence suit will name you or your law firm.
The Limitations Act, 2002, actually came into effect on January 1, 2004. We got it from British Columbia, the source of all modernity in Canadian law. Those who were around for the old Limitations Act remember the arcane language such as “actions on the case,” borrowed from the “forms of action” which preceded the modern concept of the “cause of action.” There were a myriad number of specialized prescription periods, the most notable ones involving the time for suing doctors, police and municipalities. There still are lots of exceptions, and to make sense of them Taran still has the best Ontario Limitations Chart. Best practice is to bookmark that chart in your office web browser.
Transitional provisions between the old statute and the new one created a big fuss, as well as lots of bar association seminars. It got especially tricky because of the common-law “discoverability” doctrine and the new statutory regime, such that you could end up with a pre-2004 claim being subject to the post-2004 limitations regime. You also saw some strange results, when it came to the capacity imputed to parties who had litigation guardians, as seen in my blog post on the subject. The one comfort was that you could not have the old statute govern something that did not happen until after the new statute came into force. You can still refer to this remarkable flow chart from LawPro if you have a claim arising or discovered in and around 2004, but I warn you: it is reminiscent of Rube Goldberg machines intended more to confuse than to amuse.