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Nova Scotia Court Reviews Its Discretion Under Limitations of Actions Act

Magee v. Lauzon, 2024 NSCA 23 

Reading Time: 3.5 minutes (approx.) 

By: Alexandre Doucet (Articled Clerk) 

This matter arose from a motor vehicle accident on March 9, 2018, where the appellant, Charles Magee, crossed the centre lane and caused a head on collision with the respondent vehicle, which contained Paul Lauzon and his teenaged daughter Robin. The Lauzons both sustained injuries. It was later discovered that the appellant had consumed a notable amount of alcohol around the time of the accident.  

Following the accident in March 2018, Paul and Robin Lauzon retained a lawyer to represent their accident-related claims; however, this lawyer neglected to file the Notice of Action for Paul Lauzon before the limitation period expiration date of March 9, 2020. She later transferred the file to another lawyer, who filed the Action on March 7, 2022. 

The Limitations of Actions Act, S.N.S. 2014, c. 35 is the legislation that sets out when an action must be initiated; section 8(1) states that an action must be bought either (a) two years from the day on which the claim is discovered, or (b) fifteen years from the day on which the act or omission on which the claim is based occurred. However, Sections 12(3) and 12(5) of the Act provides a judge discretion to disallow a limitations defence (i.e., circumventing the Act). The extensive criteria of both 12(3) and 12(5) can be summarized as compassionate reasons or circumstances that would impede a Plaintiff from providing a notice of action, balanced with a Defendant’s ability to provide a proper defence. At trial, the Court found that Paul Lauzon’s claim was not barred despite being filed after the expiration of the limitation period on the principles and application of ss. 12(3) and 12(5) of the Act. Charles Magee appealed this decision. 

On appeal, the Court found no error from the lower court’s application of section 12(3) and 12(5) criteria of the Act. The fact that Paul Lauzon’s original counsel missed the limitation period inadvertently meant a degree of deference was owed to him given he had suffered additional hardships through no fault of his own. His ability to quickly retain new counsel was also noted as important, and the strong case against the appellant on his extensive liability for the accident meant that Paul Lauzon had a strong case that deserved to be tried. The appeal was therefore dismissed, highlighting the discretionary power of judges under the Act. 

Link: https://www.canlii.org/en/ns/nsca/doc/2024/2024nsca23/2024nsca23.html 

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