Court Declines Jurisdiction over New York MVA Despite Passed Limitation Period

Gilbertson Davis LLPCivil Litigation, Cross-Border Litigation, Insurance, Jurisdictional Challenges, Of Interest to US Counsel0 Comments

In Mannarino v The Estate of Jane Brown, the Superior Court declined to take jurisdiction over a claim involving a motor vehicle accident that took place in New York, even though the limitation period for bringing a claim in New York had since passed.

The plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle in the state of New York, and was involved in a car accident with another New York driver. The plaintiff sued in Ontario, claiming in part that the injuries suffered exacerbated an earlier motor vehicle injury which was already properly before the courts in Ontario. The plaintiff argued that the nature of the injuries would require the two actions to be consolidated. The court noted that no consolidation motion had yet been brought.

Justice Skarica considered the factors outlined in Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda for the court to take jurisdiction over a claim. The court found that none of the presumptive factors applied in this case – the accident occurred in New York, and the defendant had no connection to Ontario. Justice Skarica specifically went on to note that even though the plaintiff was suffering from his injuries in Ontario, and that the defendant’s US-based insurer also carries on business in Ontario, these were not relevant factors in presuming jurisdiction. Without any presumptive factors supporting jurisdiction, the court did not have the jurisdiction to address what should properly have been commenced in New York, notwithstanding the ongoing litigation regarding the earlier accident.

The court noted that, as an unfortunate side effect of this ruling, the plaintiff would be unable to pursue his claims against the defendant in New York because the limitation period had passed. In certain circumstances, the court can still take jurisdiction as an exception to the usual requirements when the plaintiff is otherwise unable to have access to justice in the proper jurisdiction. Justice Skarica declined to exercise this “forum of necessity” or “forum of last resort” exception, since the plaintiff had the opportunity to bring a simultaneous claim in the New York courts before the limitation period expired, as well as an opportunity to have this court’s jurisdiction determined prior to the expiry of the New York limitation period, but the plaintiff elected not to do so. The court held that a missed limitation period, on its own, is not a sufficiently exceptional circumstance to invoke the “forum of necessity” exception.

This decision serves as an important reminder that plaintiffs should always pay close attention to potential jurisdiction issues, and should have those issues determined at an early stage, or alternatively commence simultaneous claims, in order to preserve their claims from being barred by limitation periods.

If you are a foreign resident and have been sued in Ontario, or if you wish to commence a claim in Ontario, please contact us for an initial consultation.

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