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December 2, 2015

Limitation Periods in Actions Against Police

The Court of Appeal recently upheld a motions court judge's decision granting summary judgment in an action against police based on an expired limitation period .

In Cassidy v. Belleville, 2015 ONCA 794, the plaintiff alleged she was stopped by police in August 2009, who informed her she was driving a stolen vehicle and confiscated the car, forcing her to walk home.  She alleged she was pregnant at the time and the incident caused medical complications. She wrote to a lawyer six days after the incident asking whether she should commence a civil action but did not pursue a lawsuit at that time.  Approximately one month later (September 2009), she made a complaint to the Belleville Police and received a reply in June 2011. The complaint was partially upheld in November 2012.  The plaintiff waited until October 2013 before commencing her action, four years after the incident.  She argued she did not discover her claim until after the complaint was upheld as she was unaware of the standard of care until that time.

The motions judge disagreed, as did the Court of Appeal.  Section 5(2) of the Limitations Act provides a presumption that the limitation period begins to run the date of the incident unless the contrary is proven and there was nothing to rebut the presumption.  Expert evidence was not needed to discover the claim; the plaintiff was aware of the offending conduct, the identity of the offender and the nature of her injuries from the time of the incident.  The results of the complaint investigation may have provided additional information but were not necessary to trigger the limitation period.

Cassidy is of assistance in police actions, but may also extend to other circumstances where plaintiffs have attempted to extend limitation periods by waiting on administrative decisions.

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