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Mental Incapacity May Delay Limitations Period

Williston v Pembridge Insurance, 2021 NBQB 176.

Written by: Weston McArthur, Student-at-Law

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Robert Williston (the Plaintiff) was involved in a motor vehicle accident on March 31, 2015. He was driving along Trans-Canada Highway between Edmundston and Grand Falls, New Brunswick, when he saw a vehicle approaching him that was twisting and turning out of control.

Instinctively, the Plaintiff attempted to drive on the shoulder of road to avoid the oncoming vehicle. Unfortunately, the road conditions were very poor, and his vehicle slid off the road and fell down an embarkment that was 200 feet deep.

The Plaintiff survived but suffered from moderate to severe physical and mental injuries. While his physical injuries healed over time, the Plaintiff suffered from memory loss and was unable to read or comprehend what he had read for a couple of months following the accident.

The Plaintiff sought benefits from his insurer (the Defendant), which were denied. He then filed a Notice of Action against his insurer on May 23, 2017. The standard limitation date for filing a claim is two years after the accident occurs, meaning that the Plaintiff’s limitation period had passed by the time he had filed his claim.

Correspondingly, the Defendant brought a motion for summary judgement. The New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench (NBQB) had to determine whether the Plaintiff was statute-barred from bringing his claim against the Defendant due to the claim being filed after the limitation date.

Section 18(1) of New Brunswick’s Limitations of Actions Act provides that limitations periods are suspended for parties who suffer from mental incapacity. The NBQB explained that this designation can apply to even those who can make basic decisions about their life. The Court noted that some decisions in an individual’s life can be more complex than others, and that deciding to bring a lawsuit is one of those more complex decisions.

The Court found that “more likely than not, the Plaintiff, at least for the relevant period between the date of accident and May 23, 2015, was incapable of obtaining professional advice, consider[ing] the costs of proceedings, the potential for recovery, and the potential exposure for costs if he lost” (para 46). Further, the Plaintiff “ was unable to make an informed judgment about whether the costs of proceeding, both personal and monetary, outweighed the benefits” (para 46).

The Court ruled in favour of the Plaintiff, determining that he suffered from a mental incapacity and therefore that the limitation period was suspended under the Act.

Link: https://canlii.ca/t/jhkp0

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