On December 17, 2014 the Justice Statutes Amendment
Act, 2014, SA 2014 c 13 received Royal Assent. Among other
things, the enactment modifies the Limitations Act, RSA
2000, c L-12 and clarifies the limitation period for contribution
claims made pursuant to the Tort-Feasors Act, RSA 2000, c
The Tort-Feasors Act allows tort-feasors (a negligent
individual, for example) to obtain contribution from other
tort-feasors who are also responsible for a plaintiff's injury.
This enactment is significant because a plaintiff who has been
injured by the acts of two or more individuals is entitled to sue
only one or some of them and still recover 100 percent of his or
her damages. Among other things, the Tort-Feasors Act
helps to reduce the likelihood of a tort-feasor being held
responsible for more damage than they caused.
Following the 2001 decision of Dean v Kociniak
("Dean"), courts in Alberta had consistently held
that the limitation period for bringing contribution claims
pursuant to the Tort-Feasors Act was two years from the
date the defendant knew or ought to have known that a claim for
contribution existed. This typically meant that a defendant would
have two years from the date it was served with a Statement of
Claim to third-party additional tort-feasors into the action.
However, in 2013 the Alberta Court of Appeal in Canadian
Natural Resources Ltd v Arcelormittal Tubular Products Roman SA
("CNRL") gave a new, narrower interpretation to the
Tort-Feasors Act and determined that a defendant's
claim for contribution against another potentially liable
tort-feasor must be advanced within the plaintiff's limitation
period (i.e., two years from when the plaintiff knew or ought to
have known of a claim against that other tort-feasor).
This narrow interpretation of the Tort-Feasors Act
reestablished the problem of the "late suing plaintiff".
Because a plaintiff typically has a two year limitation period to
sue, plus an extra year to serve a defendant with the Statement of
Claim, a defendant sued towards the end of the plaintiff's
limitation period could conceivably run out of time to seek
contribution from other tort-feasors before it even became aware of
The amendments to the Limitation Act effectively
overturn the Court of Appeal's ruling in CNRL and
return the law to its state following Dean. The expiry of
the limitation period applicable to claims for contribution is the
later of two years from when a defendant is served with a Statement
of Claim and the date on which the defendant knew, or ought to have
known, that another tort-feasor may be liable for the same damage.
The amendments expressly state that claims for contribution
pursuant to the Tort-Feasors Act are no longer precluded
by the expiration of the plaintiff's limitation period to sue.
Significantly, with the exception of actions in which there has
been a final judgment or settlement, the amendments to the
Limitations Act are deemed to have retroactively come into
force on March 1, 1999.
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.
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