We recently blogged about the current framework governing electronic signatures in Ontario (here). In a May 2021 case, the Divisional Court recognized text messages as a valid digital signature in a dispute between parties over a debt for leasehold improvements and the application of the Limitation Act, 2002.
Civil claims in Ontario must generally be started within two years of an “act or omission” giving right to the claim. The “limitations clock” starts to run on the date of the act or omission but can be extended in certain circumstances such as where a debtor acknowledges the debt to the creditor. The acknowledgment must be in writing and signed. The clock starts to run on the date of the acknowledgment.
In this case, there was a dispute over money owing to a contractor. Some invoices were paid but the last was partially outstanding. The parties exchanged text messages on June 2, 2016, where the debtor recognized the debt but refused to make payment until the project was completed to his satisfaction. The contractor brought a claim in the Small Claims Court for the balance owing and successfully argued that the text exchange was an acknowledgment of debt under s.13 the Limitation Act, 2002 and the claim was brought in time of the two-year limitation period (with the clock starting from the date of that text exchange). The text exchange was within 2 years of the start of the claim. The last payment made to the contractor was outside of 2 years of the start of the claim.