In Patkaciunas v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, 2021 ONSC 5945 (“Patkaciunas”), the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that it has “the necessary jurisdiction to treat a claim as having been commenced when the statement of claim ought to have been issued by the public official to whom it was presented for this purpose if doing so affects the application of a limitation period.”
Section 259.1 of the Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c I.8 establishes a one-year limitation period to commence a proceeding against an insurer under a contract for loss or damage to an automobile or its contents. The limitation period at issue in this case expired on June 25, 2019. The plaintiff’s paralegal was not aware of the process for issuing a claim online and therefore attended in person to the court office more than 30 minutes before closing on June 25, 2019. The court staff generally prioritize time-sensitive filings. The paralegal obtained a date and time stamped numbered ticket and waited for the court clerk to call on him. There was only one clerk working at the in-take office that day. When the paralegal’s ticket was called, the clerk told the paralegal that his computer was shutting down in 90 seconds and that the statement of claim would not be processed for issuance on that day. The clerk turned around and left. The statement of claim was issued the following day on June 26, 2019.
The plaintiff brought a motion for an order amending the claim to bear an issue date of June 25, 2019. The defendant, in turn, brought a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the claim was issued one day after expiry of the limitation period.
Justice Dunphy determined that the statement of claim ought to have been processed and issued on June 25, 2019:
 The plaintiffs did not fail to commence a proceeding within the time limit prescribed by s. 259.1 of the Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c I.8. They did all that was necessary to commence a proceeding within the time prescribed. The court staff failed to record that fact. Staff ought to have confirmed that fact and provided evidence of it in the form of a properly dated stamp on the statement of claim to evidence its issuance.
 I have the inherent jurisdiction to treat as done that which public officials had a duty to do and when they had a duty to do it. I am declaring that the statement of claim was issued on June 25, 2019. I am not excusing the plaintiffs’ failure to take a step in the time prescribed – I am finding as a fact on the evidence before me that the step required was taken even if not recorded by the court as it ought to have been through no fault of the plaintiffs.
In the result, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion and dismissed the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The decision in Patkaciunas is a triumph of common sense and demonstrates in the case of limitation periods that while “[it] may be good policy for plaintiffs to leave a margin o[f] error for unexpected occurrences that lie within their own control – they are not required to anticipate failings by court staff over which they have no control.”