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    The Small Claims Court Primer, Part 1: The Limitation Period
    Posted: 2010-09-21 10:45:51

    This series on Small Claims Court highlights areas about which people who file in Small Claims may have little knowledge. The information found in this series will also help you understand how the services offered by My Legal Briefcase fit into the larger Small Claims Court process.

    When it comes to Small Claims action, there are many limitations around how, when, and what a suit may be about. Unfortunately, in Small Claims Court, you cannot sue for an unlimited amount of money over a limitless period of time.

    The Limitations Act outlines the time period in which a Small Claims action and civil action generally may be carried out.

    In most cases, you have two years which to a start a claim after an incident occurs. In more legal terms: you have until the second anniversary of the day on which the claim was discovered to commence a claim.

    Most people start a claim long after the two-year limitation period expires and are unable to pursue what may otherwise be a legitimate suit. For example, suppose your neighbor borrowed money from you ten years ago. Until now you may have not considered pursuing legal action in order to retrieve the funds your neighbor repeatedly promised to repay. But by the time you finally got around to starting the claim, 10 years later it would be too late.

    Not only that, but many persons use this rule to aid the defendant in a Small Claims. If the action is delayed to beyond the two-year period and the defense raises this issue, and it is accepted, then the case will be thrown out.

    So, when does this two-year period actually start?


    The limitation period encourages potential litigants to bring their claims forward in a timely fashion.  The concept of discoverability allows the period to officially begin only once a person learns the wrong has occurred by the actions of a particular person.

    Claims could be discovered when you first learn of the claim, when the injury occurs, or when the plaintiff ought to have known that the injury was related to the actions of the defendant.

    Here are a few examples to illustrate what we mean:

    Example 1

    Let’s say your neighbor has owed you money for three years. If you try to start a claim now, you’re too late. Let’s assume that your neighbor was able to make a partial repayment just 18 months ago. Due to the discoverability rule, the partial repayment restarts the clock and makes a potential suit possible.

    Example 2

    When walking along the sidewalk outside your neighbour’s house one winter, you slip and fall. You now have two years from that day to a start a Small Claims action. If, however, you slip and fall and think you’re okay, only to suffer the after-effects of the fall nearly a year later, you now have two years from that day to start a Small Claims action

    Confusing, isn’t it?

    Well, no one has ever claimed that the court system is easy to understand. If you have any doubts or concerns about how the Limitations Act impacts your situation, please be sure to speak to a lawyer.

    In Part 2, we will talk about the limits on how much you can sue for.

    Although My Legal Briefcase takes every reasonable effort to ensure that the information on our website and documents are up-to-date and legally sufficient, My Legal Briefcase is not a law firm, and the employees of My Legal Briefcase are not acting as your attorney.

    Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal advice.