In two recent decisions, Canadian courts demonstrated that they are not willing to accept the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for missing filing deadlines.

First Case: COVID-19 No Excuse for Filing Claim After Limitation Period

In the first case, a plaintiff tried to bring a claim against two construction companies in the amount of $1,680 in front of the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (the “CRT”). The plaintiff claimed the amount to compensate for the cost of drywall repairs which she said were necessary due to cracking allegedly caused by the construction companies’ blasting work which had been done nearby.

The plaintiff represented herself and filed her application on May 27, 2020. However, the plaintiff had stated that it was February 9, 2018 when she first became aware of her claim.

Under British Columbia’s Limitation Act, a damages claim must be started within 2 years of the day it was discovered, which is the first day a person had knowledge of the matters in the claim or reasonably ought to have known about the claim, and knowledge that the respondent was an appropriate party to claim against. That meant that if her claim had been discovered before May 27, 2018, her claim had been filed too late and was out of time.

The plaintiff offered three reasons why her claim should not be found to be out of time. One of her arguments was that the COVID-19 pandemic and government closures had made compliance with time frames “challenging”, though she did not elaborate further. This argument was rejected, with the CRT stating:

“The CRT is an online tribunal and was operating as normal during the relevant time periods, including up to March 23, 2018. Notably, the state of emergency was only declared on March 17, 2018, less than a week before the latest possible date the limitation period expired. [The plaintiff] does not say she suffered from any COVID-19 related illness or challenges apart from her argument about government offices, which I find is irrelevant to her ability to start a CRT dispute. I find there is no basis here to extend the time for filing the claim due to the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise. I decline to exercise my discretion to do so.”

As a result, the plaintiff’s claims were found to be filed out of time and were dismissed.

Second Case: COVID-19 No Excuse for Failing to Meet Appeal Filing Deadline

The appellant’s notice of appeal was filed on May 20, 2020 in Alberta.

On June 4, 2020, the Case Management Officer re-categorized the appeal as a fast track appeal, in accordance with the Alberta Rules of Court. On that date, the appellant was advised in writing that the deadlines and requirements for fast track appeals applied to the appeal, and the deadline to file the appeal record was July 2, 2020.

The appellant did not file his appeal record and his appeal was struck on July 3, 2020.

The appellant then applied to restore his fast track appeal on July 21, 2020.

Among his arguments, the appellant submitted that the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in his failure to meet the time for filing the appeal record because of the need to stay indoors, because of general inconvenience, and because many legal offices were closed. However, he did not state any specific deterrence caused to him personally by COVID-19. On the issue, the court concluded:

“[I]t is incorrect that Calgary lawyers were not available for hire in June and July, 2020; most firms were open for business, even if operating remotely. […]

“[The appellant]’s explanations for failing to file his appeal record on time are vague and insufficient. His allegation that his ability to file the appeal was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and his inability to reorganize his working and personal life are inadequate explanations for his failure.”

As a result, the court dismissed the appellant’s application to restore his appeal.

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