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April 13, 2011

Motion to add defendants after limitation period dismissed

Higgins v. Barrie (City of), 2011 O.N.S.C. 2233 (S.C.J.)

This was a motion by the plaintiff to amend the Statement of Claim to add additional defendants after the expiry of the limitation period on the basis of discoverability.

The plaintiff slipped and fell on March 13, 2006 and alleged that the City of Barrie was negligent in failing to maintain the site of the slip and fall. Barrie’s defence was filed May 13, 2008. Examinations for Discovery took place August 5, 2010 and September 13, 2010. At the examination for discovery of the City representative, counsel advised that the proposed defendant had been contracted by the City to remove snow from the area where the plaintiff fell. The contractor had in turn subcontracted to the second proposed defendant. On November 25, 2010, Barrie’s counsel advised of the name of the subcontractor. Plaintiff’s counsel performed a corporate search on November 30, 2010 and brought a motion to add the proposed defendants December 14, 2010.

Justice DiTomaso dismissed the plaintiff’s motion. The court noted that the passing of the limitation period gives rise to a presumption of prejudice. There is a reverse onus and evidentiary burden on the plaintiff. In the circumstances, the plaintiff’s motion materials failed to disclose any evidence of pre-discovery diligence on the part of the plaintiff or his counsel to determine the identity of the proposed defendants. The motion materials failed to disclose any evidence of any reason why the plaintiff could not have taken any steps to discover the identity of the proposed defendants prior to the examination for discovery. Justice DiTomaso held that waiting 4 ½ years until the examination for discovery of a City representative to make inquiries about potential additional defendants did not amount to due diligent or reasonable efforts. The affidavit of the plaintiff’s legal assistant was totally deficient in providing evidence of due diligence or reasonable efforts made to ascertain the involvement of the proposed defendants or any other defendants. The plaintiff therefore had not met his onus and the motion was dismissed.

Justice DiTomaso’s decision is extremely useful for proposed defendants responding to a plaintiff’s motion to amend. There is a very helpful summary of the case law with respect to adding defendants and the due diligence requirement.

Thank you to Ted Key for bringing this case to our attention.

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