Richards v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, 2016 ONSC 5492

Released August 31, 2016 | Full Decision [CanLII]

The summary judgment motion, brought by Sun Life on the basis that the limitation period had expired, presented two issues. The first issue is whether the claim was discoverable before October 30, 2010, two years before the claim was issued. The second issue was whether the plaintiff was entitled to claim disability benefits from two years before the issuance of the Statement of Claim based upon a rolling limitation period.

The plaintiff, Cecil Richards, initially applied for disability benefits from Sun Life on December 4, 2006 arising out of injuries he suffered in a motor vehicle collision on November 17, 2006. On May 1, 2007, Sun Life sent a letter to Mr. Richards indicating that his file had been “terminated” and no further action would be taken on his claim. Sun Life advised Mr. Richards that he had a three-month appeal period, which would expire on August 1, 2007 when Sun Life’s decision would be considered “final”.

Mr. Richards called Sun Life on September 6, 2007 and September 12, 2008 to inquire as to the status of this claim. On both occasions, he was informed that his file remained closed.

Mr. Richards retained counsel with respect to his motor vehicle collision and issued a Statement of Claim in the negligence action on November 17, 2008. On March 17, 2010, Mr. Richards’ counsel wrote to Sun Life to request a complete copy of his short-term and long-term disability files. Sun Life provided copies of these files on April 13, 2010.

Mr. Richards’ counsel issued a Statement of Claim with respect to benefits under the Sun Life policy on October 30, 2012.

On the issue of discoverability, Mr. Justice Bale held that Mr. Richards knew or ought to have known that he had a cause of action against Sun Life by May 2007 when he received the first letter from Sun Life. Just as Bill noted that even if the limitation period did not begin to run in May 2007, he must have or should have known that he had been denied benefits to which he believed himself to be entitled at some point before October 30, 2010. Therefore, the limitation period had expired before the claim had been issued.

What may be of greater significance for future claims is Justice Bale’s decision with respect to the plaintiff’s submission that a rolling limitation period applied. On this theory, Mr. Richards was only barred from claiming disability benefits that would have been payable more than two years before the action was commenced. Justice Bale rejected this submission. He held that rolling limitation periods apply only in cases where the issue is whether certain payments to which the plaintiff is entitled have in fact been made, such as in the case of rent payment. In such cases, the facts with respect to payment will arise on a periodic basis. As such, it would not be unfair to require a defendant to litigate those facts on a rolling basis from the date upon which an individual payment became due. However, where the dispute is over whether the plaintiff is entitled to the periodic payments in the first place, the material facts will have arisen at the time of entitlement. Therefore, it would be unfair to require a defendant to litigate those facts for a potentially unlimited period of time.

Read the decision on CanLII
Written by

For over a decade, Rikin Morzaria has dedicated his practice to representing those who have suffered serious or catastrophic personal injuries and families who have lost a loved one in wrongful death cases. His areas of practice include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, cycling injuries, fatal accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, and disability insurance claims.

Rikin received his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with Distinction from the Schulich School of Business at York University. He completed his law degree at the University of Toronto, where he also received the top prize in Trial Advocacy and the top prize in Public International Law.

Rikin has written and published more than twenty journal articles and chapters in leading textbooks in the field of civil litigation and personal injury law. He is regularly invited to give lectures to other lawyers and to health professionals about litigation and personal injury law.

Rikin believes passionately in the need for safe streets and commutes by bicycle to work every day. When not working, Rikin spends his time with his wife and two children.