Does a Criminal Proceeding Stop the Limitation Period Clock for a Civil Suit?

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In the decision Kulyk v Guastella, 2021 ONSC 584, Justice Myers addressed whether a criminal proceeding can stop the clock for a civil suit. In this case, the parties were former spouses. The criminal matter arose from allegations that the husband perpetrated fraud and assault. The civil matter arose from statements the former wife made to the police about the husband’s behaviour.

The issue in this case was whether the husband’s civil suit about the wife’s comments was statute barred. The husband brought his claim more than two years after his former wife made statements to the police. The Crown eventually withdrew the charges. 

In explaining the delay for bringing his lawsuit, the husband alleged that “Given the enormous stress of being charged for the first time in my life, and the fact that that my liberty was at stake, my life was consumed with focusing on the criminal chargesI believed I would have to get those charges dismissed before I made any decisions about bringing any type of civil action against her.” 

Justice Myers found that the claim was barred by the limitation period. The action was commenced after 2 years from the events. The exceptions for suing the police for negligent investigation and malicious prosecution did not apply to this case. In this case, the focus was on the conduct of the husband, not the police or the complainant’s conduct. The cause of action in this case fully accrued at the time the events occurred.

The exceptions for negligence against the police and for malicious prosecution did not arise here. At para 52, Justice Myers writes “That is because the completion of the criminal proceedings is an essential element of those causes of action… it makes sense not to inflame the police while criminal charges are under way and, more significantly, it was legally troubling for a civil court to question the propriety of criminal proceedings that had not yet run their course.” However, in this cases those considerations did not arise.

Justice Myers also added that giving weight to the husband’s arguments could potentially open up the floodgates for other types of cases. For example, car accident cases that may have civil and criminal sides.

This a great decision, with a logical explanation for why the limitation period should not be extended.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization. heatherdouglaslaw.com)

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