“Opportunistic” MVA Plaintiff Misses Deadline to Sue for Damages

In a recent motor vehicle accident case, the court rejected the plaintiff’s late-breaking switch in litigation strategy as “opportunistic”.  Instead, it allowed the defendant to amend his court pleadings a full two years after the accident, which potentially shut out the plaintiff’s personal injury claims entirely.

Trudeau sued Cavanaugh for personal injuries he claimed to have suffered when the motor vehicles they were each driving collided. Two weeks later, Trudeau learned from his insurer that he had been denied coverage, on the basis that in his policy he had endorsed himself as an “excluded driver”.  This also meant he was uninsured at the time of the accident, and should theoretically have pursued the car’s prior owner and the insurer – not Cavanaugh – for any personal injury damages.  However, Trudeau did not do so.

More than two full years later, after learning of Trudeau’s uninsured “excluded driver” status, Cavanaugh realized that he likely had a complete defence to Trudeau’s personal injury claims against him, under provincial insurance law.  He asked the court’s permission to amend his Statement of Defence accordingly.  However, the timing of Cavanaugh’s request was important:  the two years marked the deadline (known as the “limitation period”) for Trudeau to bring further claims against Cavanaugh or anyone else.

Trudeau naturally opposed the change, pointing out that if he could not sue Cavanaugh, he was out of time to sue anyone else because the limitation period had expired.  Based on the legal prejudice he claimed he would otherwise suffer, Trudeau asked the court to decline Cavanaugh’s tardy amendment request.

The court rejected Trudeau’s argument.  It found that he had all the facts he needed, well before the lapse of the limitation period, to explore avenues of legal recourse against parties other than Cavanaugh.  For example, he received a prompt letter from the insurer denying coverage; he had also filed a Motor Vehicle Accident Report and certain litigation evidence that made his early knowledge of the facts clear.  For him to now claim otherwise was “chimerical”, “opportunistic”, and “frivolous,” in the court’s view.  Plus, the court noted, this was not a case where either Cavanaugh nor his lawyer had tried to lull Trudeau into not taking action earlier.

In short:  Trudeau had failed to take timely steps to assert his legal remedies and bring actions against the correct parties.  Despite the potential repercussions to him, the court allowed the amendment to Cavanaugh’s Statement of Defence even two years after the accident, and even though it might serve to block certain personal injury claims by Trudeau completely.  (That issue would be left for a later full trial). See Trudeau v. Cavanagh.