Ontario Court of Appeal upholds dismissal of statute-barred personal injury claim

The court examined precedents involving the limitation period for personal injury claims

Ontario Court of Appeal upholds dismissal of statute-barred personal injury claim

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently upheld a decision dismissing a personal injury action related to a motor vehicle accident, finding that the claim is statute-barred.

On February 2, 2013, the appellant, Siavash Sanei, was injured in a motor vehicle accident. The appellant filed the action on March 2, 2016, against the respondent, claiming responsibility for the accident and seeking damages for "permanent and serious injuries." However, the court found the claim statute-barred, having been filed after the two-year limitation period set by section 4 of the Limitations Act.

The appellant challenged the summary judgment motion judge's dismissal, arguing that the judge had not determined the exact date of discovery of the injuries, which would start the limitation period. Nonetheless, the appellate court dismissed the appeal, confirming that the filing of the appellant's action exceeded the permissible timeframe.

At the centre of the dispute was applying the Limitations Act's discoverability principle. The appellant’s principal argument on appeal was that the motion judge committed an error by failing to make a specific finding as to when the appellant discovered, or reasonably ought to have discovered, his injuries and, in consequence, when the limitation period started to run.

The appellant maintained that he was unaware that his injuries qualified as a serious and permanent impairment under the Insurance Act until just before he commenced the lawsuit. Despite this claim, the court concluded that both medical evidence and the appellant’s testimony indicated he was, or should have been, aware of the nature of his injuries within the two-year limit.

The Ontario Court of Appeal reiterated legal precedents that define the start of the limitation period for personal injury claims from motor vehicle accidents. It emphasized that this period begins when the claimant knows or should have known that their injuries satisfy serious and permanent impairment criteria.

Moreover, the appellate court reviewed the motion judge’s reasoning and found that the available evidence, including medical assessments and the appellant's own admissions during discovery, sufficiently demonstrated his early awareness of the injuries' serious and permanent status.

The ruling also addressed the evidence required to establish a claim under the Insurance Act. The court noted that having medical opinions and personal acknowledgment of the injuries was adequate for triggering the start of the limitation period, even if those opinions did not meet the specific requirements for evidence at trial.

Ultimately, the court found no basis to interfere with the motion judge’s decision. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal.

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