The Divisional Court confirms that the LAT has jurisdiction to extend the limitation period under SABS.
On June 15, 2021, the Divisional Court of the Superior Court of Justice released its decision on appeals from three Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) decisions:
- (1) Reardon v. RSA (successfully litigated by Nathan Tischler and Imtiaz Hosein of Campisi LLP),
- (2) Fratarcangeli v. North Blenheim and
- (3) Sheway v. Certa
All three dealt with the LAT’s jurisdiction to extend the general two-year limitation period to dispute accident benefits claims under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). Reardon and Fratarcangeli both held that the LAT did have jurisdiction under s.7 of the Licence Appeal Tribunal Act. However, the adjudicator in Sheway held that it did not. The three appeals were heard together to provide clarity on the law and a consistent approach going forward.
Section 7 of the LAT Act states:
Despite any limitation of time fixed by or under any Act for the giving of any notice requiring a hearing by the Tribunal or an appeal from a decision or order of the Tribunal under section 11 or any other Act, if the Tribunal is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for applying for the extension and for granting relief, it may,
(a) extend the time for giving the notice either before or after the expiration of the limitation of time so limited; and
(b) give the directions that it considers proper as a result of extending the time.
Chief amongst their arguments, the insurers claimed that this section did not apply to LAT applications since these were made under a regulation, (the SABS) and were therefore, not “fixed by or under any Act”. They pointed out that other sections in the LAT Act made specific references to acts or regulations, claiming that since s.7 did not, the legislature must have intended to exclude regulations from the exercise of discretion. They also argued that allowing discretion to extend the right to dispute denials beyond two years would be contrary to the purposes of giving the LAT authority over accident benefits – to provide timely and efficient resolution of accident benefits disputes. Finally, only Certas argued in the Sheway proceeding that a LAT application was not “any notice requiring a hearing” because the majority of LAT applications did not require a hearing as they could be settled at the case conference or through negotiation.
The Divisional Court confirmed that s.7 of the LAT Act did confer authority on the tribunal to extend a limitation to dispute an accident benefits denial where reasonable grounds exist, using the four factors from Manuel v. Ontario (Registrar, Motor Vehicle Dealers Act), 2021 ONSC 1492 (Div. Ct.) to determine reasonableness:
- (1) Whether there was a bona fide intention to appeal within the time limit;
- (2) The length of the delay;
- (3) Prejudice to the other party; and
- (4) The merits of the appeal.
The Court rejected all of the insurers’ arguments, explaining that “fixed by or under any Act” included the SABS, which was made under the Insurance Act. Furthermore, while acknowledging that timeliness and efficiency were two of the reasons for transferring authority over the SABS to the LAT, the Court stated that SABS dispute resolution mechanism must also remain fair and accessible, in keeping with its consumer protection mandate. To deny an extension to an injury victim where reasonable grounds would justify granting it would be contrary to this mandate. Regarding Certas’ submission that a LAT application was not covered by the term, “any notice requiring a hearing”, the Court directed that the matter be returned to Adjudicator Nielson to make the determination on the merits, given that the LAT did have discretion under s.7 of the LAT Act, contrary to her position at the previous reconsideration hearing.
Note: The Court dealt in significant detail with these and other grounds of appeal. Interested readers can review the decision here.
These clear and well-reasoned appeals (collectively, Fratarcangeli v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company, 2021 ONSC 3997) reinforce the Court of Appeal’s decision in Tomec v. Economical that although limitation periods for disputing accident benefits claims are important, they are not to be applied in a rigid and inflexible manner. They also reaffirm the primacy of consumer protection in the LAT’s assumption and exercise of jurisdiction over accident benefits claims.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an accident, and you have questions about these appeals, your denied accident benefits or the limitation to dispute a denial, we are pleased to offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Put Campisi LLP’s experts to work for you – we are champions with heart!
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