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February 23, 2011

The discoverability principle in third party claims

White v. Mannen, 2011 ONSC 1058 (S.C.J.)

This was a motion by the third party, Brant County, for summary judgment on the basis that the action against it was commenced out of time.

The main action arose out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on May 22, 2004. The plaintiff was a passenger in the defendant's vehicle, which crested a hill and swerved to avoid a parked car, leaving the roadway and striking a tree. In the third party claim, the defendant alleged the road and hill obstructed his view.

The claim was issued December 2, 2005 and served on the defendant February 21, 2006. The third party claim was issued September 24, 2009. The defendant argued that it was only after examinations for discovery and receipt of an engineering opinion that he discovered he had a cause of action against the municipality.

Justice Gordon conducted a useful review of the case law with respect to discoverability, and specifically the due diligence required: a party must only learn of sufficient facts upon which to commence a claim and need not be in a position to prove it. Legal advice or an expert opinion is not necessarily required, and an examination for discovery may not be required. In resisting a motion for summary judgment, the responding party must address the due diligence requirement and provide full disclosure.

Justice Gordon held that the defendant knew at the time of the accident that there was restricted visibility on the hill. The failure of the defendant to tender evidence on due diligence was fatal to his position. The third party claim was well out of time and was dismissed.

This decision is a good review of the principles pertaining to discoverability and should be reviewed both by those pursuing third party claims and those defending them.

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