Canada: "Safai v. Bruce N. Huntley Contracting Ltd.", 2010 ONCA 545

In this recent decision, the Court of Appeal considered the application of limitation periods and the "discoverability rule" in relation to a slip and fall accident that resulted in claims involving both a property owner and a maintenance contractor.

This decision clarifies that a cause of action against a property owner will typically be discoverable on the date the accident and/or alleged injury occurs, whereas a cause of action against a maintenance contractor will not be discoverable until the plaintiff is notified of the existence of the maintenance contractor's involvement.

Important Facts:

  • The Appellant slipped and fell on a patch of ice in the parking lot of a commercial building on February 17, 2000.
  • In May of 2000, the Appellant's lawyer learned that the registered owner of the commercial building was Bruce N. Huntley Contracting Ltd. (Huntley).
  • Correspondence dated October 19, 2000 from Huntley's insurers to the Appellant's lawyer indicated that Markham Property Services Ltd. (Markham) was responsible for snow removal services at the Huntley property.
  • The Appellant issued a statement of claim against Huntley on February 23, 2006 and a separate statement of claim was issued against Markham on September 27, 2006.


If the limitation period began to run from the date of the Appellant's slip and fall, both of the Appellants' claims appeared to fall outside the applicable six year limitation period.

The Appellant argued that the discoverability rule applied to extend the applicable limitation periods and thus allow the claims made against both property owner and the contractor to proceed. The Appellant argued that the names of the property owner and maintenance contractor were essential elements of the cause of action and that time did not start to run with respect to the respective limitations periods until the Appellant knew these names or "by the exercise of reasonable diligence could ascertain them."

The Court of Appeal:

The Court of Appeal dismissed the action against the property owner Huntley, but allowed the action against the maintenance contractor Markham.

The Court quoted Consumers Glass Co. v. Foundation Co. of Canada (1985), 51 O.R. (2d) 385, which held that "in cases which are based on a breach of duty to take care, the cause of action does not arise, and time does not begin to run for the purposes of the Limitations Act, until such time as the plaintiff discovers or ought to reasonably to have discovered the facts..."

When the Appellant was injured on February 17, 2000, she knew that she had a claim against the property owner and was in a position to ascertain the registered name of the property owner. The idea that the limitation period does not start on the date of the accident but instead on the date a routine search reveals the owner's name "defies common sense and is not what the discoverability rule is intended to accomplish." With respect to the maintenance contractor, the Court found that the discoverability rule applied. While it was reasonable for the Appellant to assume that she had a cause of action against the property owner, she did not know that Huntley had contracted out maintenance for the property to a third party. There was also no simple procedure to determine whether maintenance responsibilities had been contracted out, unlike determining the name of the property owner.


The application of the discoverability rule depends on the ease with which the plaintiff can ascertain the identity of the defendant. If a routine search is available, or the plaintiff is immediately able to connect the defendant to the accident (as in the case of a motor vehicle accident), the limitations period begins to run immediately. However, if the participation of a party is not immediately obvious to the plaintiff and depends on information being provided to the plaintiff from the defendant, the limitations period will not begin to run until the plaintiff becomes aware of this party's potential involvement.

BLG's Insurance and Tort Liability Group

Our national Insurance and Tort Liability Group is unique in its size and specialization. It is believed to be the largest such group in Canada, comprised of 70 professionals, including bilingual members in Montréal.

Our clients include many of the largest national and global insurers, reinsurers and reciprocals in Canada. In addition, we provide legal services to major brokerage firms, large companies carrying substantial self-insured retentions, adjusting firms and regulatory bodies involved in the insurance industry. We are involved as counsel and as litigators, in all areas of insurance law.

The scope of our work for these clients involves the drafting of policy wordings, the interpretation of policies of insurance, coverage opinions, the defence of actions brought against insurers, the defence of actions brought against their insureds, prosecution of subrogated actions and significant participation in negotiation, mediation and arbitration procedures.

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions