A new Limitations of Actions Act, introduced today, Oct. 29, will eliminate time limits for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence who want to file lawsuits. It will also set standard time limits for filing other civil lawsuits.
Limitation periods put a cap on the length of time people have to sue. The existing act gives a one-year limitation period for sexual assault claims. There are a variety of exceptions that could suspend the limitation period, but they are difficult to understand and apply.
“The new act is simpler, provides more certainty and strikes a fair balance that respects the rights of all parties involved in the legal action,” said Justice Minister Lena Metlege Diab. “Most importantly, it better protects victims of sexual assault by eliminating time limits on when they can bring a claim forward.”
In addition to eliminating time limits for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, the act also does not set time limits for assaults involving dependents, including people who are financially, emotionally or physically dependent on others, or people in intimate relationships. There will continue to be no time limits for any claims involving children. Limitation periods are suspended until children turn 19.
The new act establishes a single, two-year basic limitation period for most civil claims, such as those that involve personal injury or breach of contract. It also creates an ultimate limitation period of 15 years for legal claims, which may not be discovered right away, such as undetected medical complications resulting from surgery. Under the new law, Nova Scotians have 15 years from the date an action or omission took place to start a civil lawsuit.
“Under the existing legislation, the 6,000 professional engineers and engineers in training who are licensed to work in Nova Scotia, are essentially liable forever,” said Len White, CEO of Engineers Nova Scotia. “This is unlike almost anywhere else in Canada and it affects both mobility and employment.
“We applaud government for taking the initiative to fix this legislation and to make positive changes for engineers and other professionals.”
Nova Scotia’s existing limitation law allows for a variety of different basic limitation periods depending on the claim. It has no ultimate limitation period.
This has led to a lot of confusion among the public, small business owners, lawyers and other professionals around time limits, and can result in complex litigation.
The new act is in line with what is happening in other jurisdictions and what is recommended by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.