In Baig v. Mississauga, 2020 ONCA 697 (“Baig”), the Court of Appeal for Ontario confirmed that knowledge of the material facts necessary to support the cause of action will trigger the commencement of the basic two-year limitation period as opposed to knowledge of the extent of the damages.
Factual and Procedural Background
The plaintiff, Mirza Habib Baig, fell off his bicycle on May 21, 2013 when traveling across a bridge. Mr. Baig went to the hospital that same day and was diagnosed with a broken finger and minor facial abrasions. On May 29, 2013, Mr. Baig submitted a claim report form to The Corporation of the Town of Mississauga (the “Town”) in which he described his injuries and sought compensation. The form indicated that there is a ten-day notice period for providing the Town with notice of certain types of claims and a two-year limitation period for bringing an action in respect of all claims.
The Town assigned an adjuster to investigate the incident. Mr. Baig, for his part, refused to cooperate with the adjuster. By letter dated May 5, 2014, a claims analyst informed Mr. Baig that if he did not make contact within 30 days, then the Town would close his file. The letter went on to advise Mr. Baig of the limitation period. The Town closed the file in June 2014, as there was no further communication from Mr. Baig.
By Statement of Claim issued on September 1, 2017, Mr. Baig commenced an action against the Town seeking damages for personal injuries. Mr. Baig amended his Statement of Claim to allege that between late 2016 and early 2019, he discovered several injuries arising from the fall off his bicycle, including carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, post-concussion syndrome, and osteoarthritis in his neck.
The Town brought a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the two-year limitation period expired before Mr. Baig commenced his action. The motion judge granted summary judgment and dismissed Mr. Baig’s claim as statute-barred. According to the motion judge, Mr. Baig discovered the material facts in support of his claim on May 22, 2013 (i.e., the day he went to the hospital) and, in any event, no later than May 29, 2013 (i.e., the day he submitted the claims report form to the Town). Mr. Baig appealed the motion judge’s decision.
Knowledge of Material Facts Triggers Limitation Period
The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr. Baig’s appeal from the motion judge’s summary judgment order. The Court of Appeal cited the decision in Liu v. Wong, 2016 ONCA 366 for the following proposition: “the law is quite well established that it is knowledge of the material facts necessary to support the cause of action that triggers the commencement of the litigation period. Knowledge of the extent of the damages is not necessary.”
The Court of Appeal held that Mr. Baig was aware of the material facts to support a claim against the Town almost immediately after he fell off his bicycle. Indeed, Mr. Baig submitted the claims report form seeking compensation from the Town a mere eight days after the incident. According to the Court of Appeal, “[t]hat his injuries appear to have worsened did not extend the limitation period.”
Baig demonstrates that the subsequent discovery of the severity of a claimant’s injuries does not extend the limitation period. The limitation period will commence once the claimant has knowledge of the material facts that are required to support the cause of action. This established principle brings certainty to cases where the full impact of damages may not be appreciated for several years after the expiry of the basic limitation period.