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Civil Litigation - Unknown Parties

. Lee v. Magna International Inc.

In Lee v. Magna International Inc. (Ont CA, 2021) the Court of Appeal considered an appeal of a denied motion to amend a claim to include unnamed parties:
[11] While this is sufficient to dispose of the appeal, we also note that we agree with the motion judge’s refusal to permit a claim to be asserted against proposed unnamed defendants using pseudonyms. Apart from the failure to disclose a cause of action, the allegations against the proposed unnamed defendants are so broad and general and lacking in material facts, including allegations that would attract personal liability, that, even if the “litigating finger” test were to be applied (that the defendants, on reading the pleading, would know what allegations were being made against them), it could not be met. See, for example Bercovici v. Attorney General of Canada, 2019 ONSC 2610, at paras. 30-33.
. Stechyshyn v. Domljanovic

In Stechyshyn v. Domljanovic (Ont CA, 2015) the Court of Appeal canvassed some of the law governing the practice of naming unknown parties in lawsuits:
[1] On a motion to correct the name of a defendant on the basis of misnomer, as long as the true defendant would know on reading the statement of claim he was the intended defendant, a plaintiff need not establish due diligence in identifying the true defendant within the limitation period: Kitcher v. Queensway General Hospital (1997), 1997 CanLII 1931 (ON CA), 44 O.R. (3d) 589 (C.A.), at paras 1 and 4; Lloyd v. Clark, 2008 ONCA 343 (CanLII), 44 M.P.L.R. (4th) 159, at para. 4.

[2] In this case, after the appellant’s successful misnomer motion substituting the name of the respondent for John Doe, the respondent successfully brought a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that he was not sued until after the expiry of the limitation period and that the appellant plaintiff did not exercise due diligence in identifying the true defendant.

[3] We held that the jurisprudence governing misnomer governed and that in the circumstances, summary judgment ought not to have been granted. Accordingly, we allowed the appeal and indicated reasons would follow. These are those reasons.


[17] The respondent submits that this is not a true case of misnomer because the actual name of the respondent had been ascertained by the appellant on the day of the accident.

[18] This submission ought to have been made by the respondent before Master Muir on the misnomer motion. Generally, a litigant is prevented from raising a matter that should have been the subject of a previous proceeding between the same parties.

[19] If the respondents on the motion for misnomer had raised the issue of due diligence, they would not have succeeded. The respondent Domljanovic would have known on reading the statement of claim that he was the intended defendant. The jurisprudence is clear that, in such circumstances, due diligence does not apply. In Kitcher, the name of the correct defendant was in the plaintiff’s solicitor’s file. In Lloyd, the name of the correct defendant municipality was readily ascertainable by typing in the location of the road in issue. The law that governs the addition of a party after the expiry of a limitation period does not apply.

[20] The respondent’s motion for summary judgment was an indirect attack on the motion for misnomer. It would be a waste of money, time, energy and judicial resources to allow the correct defendant to be added on a motion for misnomer and then to allow a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the correction was made after the expiry of the limitation period. The law does not countenance such impracticality. The law treats the naming of the correctly named defendant as a substitution for the incorrectly named defendant and not the addition of a new party or the initiation of the action against the correctly named defendant.

[21] Accordingly, for these reasons the appeal was allowed, the order granting summary judgment set aside and the action allowed to proceed.


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Last modified: 19-02-23
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