Limitations Law Changes

Written by Gerard Kennedy

Limitations periods are a double-edged sword from an access to justice perspective. On the one hand, they encourage:

  • the preservation of evidence and prevention of memories becoming stale, helping ensure fair trials;
  • prospective plaintiffs not to sleep on their rights; and
  • certainty for prospective defendants, so that they know when they are free of ancient obligations.

At the same time, limitations periods, at some level, suggest that there are occasions when it is too late to “do the right thing”. As such, complicated law has arisen, to account for unique situations in which plaintiffs find themselves (such as declaring there to be no limitations periods for historic sexual assaults and suspending the periods when individuals are incapacitated). Manitoba has had particularly complex limitations law, with the periods varying in light of the particular cause of action.

Given that uncertainty in the law can be its own barrier to access to justice, many provinces have reformed their limitations law over recent years and decades. Manitoba has finally joined them, and The Limitations Act (“the New Act”) will come into force on September 30, 2022.

Legal counsel should be sought regarding the interpretation of the New Act, especially regarding the “grandfathering” of cases where the cause of action arose prior to the New Act coming into force. But as a general rule, the New Act, will simplify limitations law in Manitoba and bring it more into line with other provinces, by generally prescribing:

  • a “basic limitation period” of 2 two years from discoverability (e., when a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s situation should have known that a cause of action against the defendant may exist);
  • an “ultimate limitations period” (applying independent of discoverability) of 15 years (30 years for certain Aboriginal claims) from the date of the acts underlying the cause of action;
  • no limitations period for certain matters, notably sexual assault;
  • suspension of limitations periods when:
    • a prospective plaintiff is a minor or under disability; or
    • the defendant has engaged in certain types of willful misleading or concealment; and
  • noting that the foregoing can be amended by particular legislation to the contrary.

Litigants should be aware of these changes, as they will affect the ability to bring claims. This is particularly important given that limitations periods are creatures of statute, meaning that judges do not have discretion to depart from them, unlike the related common law doctrine of laches.

The views expressed in these blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba and should not be construed as legal advice or endorsement.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top