In Fratarcangeli v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company, 2021 ONSC 3997, the Divisional Court held that the Licence Appeal Tribunal (the “LAT”) has the power, under section 7 of the Licence Appeal Tribunal Act (the “LAT Act”), to extend the two-year limitation period under section 56 of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (“SABS”) for commencing an application in respect of a benefit under, bringing clarity to this issue. Prior to this decision, the LAT was divided on whether it had jurisdiction to extend the limitation period. This decision now lays that debate to rest.
This decision addressed three appeals heard together. In each of the underlying decisions, the adjudicators had addressed the issue of whether the LAT has jurisdiction to grant an extension of the limitation period pursuant to s. 7 of the LAT Act. In two of the three matters under appeal, the adjudicator had concluded that they had jurisdiction under s. 7, and granted an extension of time.
In the third matter, however, the adjudicator determined that s. 7 did not grant jurisdiction to extend the s. 56 limitation period, and that the applications to the LAT were brought out of time.
Section 56 of the SABS prescribes a two-year time limit for bringing applications, stating:
An application under subsection 280 (2) of the Act in respect of a benefit shall be commenced within two years after the insurer’s refusal to pay the amount claimed.
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 under any other Act, if the Tribunal is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for applying 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.
The Divisional Court considered that there are two issues relating to whether s. 7 of the LAT Act allows the limitation period to be extended:
- Whether s. 7 has no application to disputes concerning the denial of benefits under the SABS because the limitation period is fixed under a regulation and not “by or under any Act” within the meaning of s. 7; and,
- Whether s. 7 does not apply because an application to the LAT for the resolution of a dispute under the SABS is not a “notice requiring a hearing” within the meaning of s. 7.
Section 7 does apply to disputes concerning the denial of benefits under the SABS
The Divisional Court underwent an interpretive exercise and considered the arguments put forward by the insurers, ultimately rejecting them.
The Court noted that section 7 must be read broadly to include limitations fixed by regulations under an Act. The text of s. 7 on its face is broad and unlimited. While it is true that the LAT Act does, in ss. 3 and 6(6), use both the terms Act and regulation, this is only one consideration. The principle of textual consistency is not an inflexible or infallible rule.
The Court went on to state that the very words relied on by the insurers to justify a distinction between an Act and a regulation also support the conclusion that, by the use of the phrase “by or under any Act”, the Legislature intended in s. 7 to include not only a limitation fixed by an Act but a limitation fixed under an Act. Section 6(6) itself refers to “provisions in any other Act, or a regulation made under this or any Act”. Regulations are made “under” an Act. When s. 7 refers to a time fixed by or under an Act, it is contemplating a time limit fixed by regulation.
Further, the Court found that policy considerations favoured permitting the s. 7 power to extend s. 56 time limits.
An application to the LAT for the resolution of a dispute under the SABS is a “notice requiring a hearing”
The Divisional Court stated that if the Court were to determine that SABS applications are not “notices requiring a hearing”, this would also have broad implications for the rest of the LAT’s responsibilities under other legislative schemes.
The LAT treats SABS applications as the “commencing document” for a proceeding which entitles an applicant to a hearing. The mere fact that there may be limited or infrequent circumstances where the LAT may not grant a hearing or where a case can be dismissed without a hearing does not undermine the fundamental point.
The Divisional Court held that the LAT had jurisdiction to extend the two-year limitation period under s. 7 of the LAT Act, and accordingly dismissed the appeals of the first two claims. The third appeal was allowed and returned to the adjudicator to consider and determine whether the LAT had properly exercised its discretion under s. 7.
It is now settled that the LAT has jurisdiction to extend the two-year limitation period under section 7 of the LAT Act. Those seeking to rely on the extension should be prepared to argue that the factors laid out in Manuel v. Ontario, 2012 ONSC 1492, support granting an extension.
 The Manuel factors are, 1. bona fide intention to appeal within the appeal period; 2. the length of the delay; 3. prejudice to the other party; and 4. the merits of the appeal.