Business as Unusual - When do you start a lawsuit during a global pandemic?

By Adam Harris

During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, many aspects of our lives are on hold. However, most legal matters are proceeding in some way and the applicable deadlines to start your claim are still in place. The pandemic has not stopped the clock on the deadlines to take legal action in Nova Scotia.

In general, for most legal claims in the province, there is a two-year time limit to start a lawsuit, known as a limitation period. This requirement is found in Nova Scotia's Limitation of Actions Act. There are some exceptions to the two-year standard, like shorter times to start claims against a municipality or involving a fatal injury, and another act may be applicable.

The reasoning for the time limit is to allow claimants a reasonable amount of time to sue someone, but a defendant will also have some closure about the claims hanging over their head.

Time limits to start a claim apply to many types of matters that may have come up during the public health crisis including tenant actions, motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, appeals and judicial reviews, employment issues or terminations, and debt claims and judgment enforcements.

The courts in Nova Scotia implemented an ‘essential services’ model on March 19, 2020, to help address the spread of the virus. For example, the court proceeded to hear only ‘urgent’ cases, and some cases were put on hold. However, the court did not suspend or extend the applicable limitation periods.

In some rare instances, the court can extend the time to start a claim if you missed the deadline, but you should not rely on this infrequent discretion as there is no guarantee a judge will grant this extension.

Do not wait to take legal action just because other aspects of your life are on hold for now. If you think you may have a legal claim, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you are getting proper advice about preserving your legal rights and taking the appropriate steps to advance your claim.

The pandemic has put many things on hold in life, but taking the appropriate steps to start litigation is not one of them.

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.