Private International Law: Does The Filing Of A Lawsuit In A Foreign Court Stop Limitation?

Author:Mr Jean Robert
Profession:Lette & Associés S.E.N.C.R.L.

A foreign plaintiff files a lawsuit against a defendant in the latter's jurisdiction to exercise a right governed by the law of the jurisdiction of the foreign plaintiff.  Does the filing of such lawsuit stop the limitation period?

On the basis of the rule existing in civil matters across Canada, in the U.K. and in France, to the effect that limitation is governed by the law applicable to the merits of the dispute, the jurisdiction seized of the lawsuit would be obliged to apply the limitation rules of the foreign jurisdiction.

An important rule in limitation which exists in most legal systems is that the filing of, commencing or bringing, a lawsuit before a court will stop or interrupt limitation until the judgment is rendered. 

Where a lawsuit is filed with the courts of the jurisdiction whose laws govern the merits and hence limitation, it will be quite clear that this rule, where it exists, will apply and interruption will take place.

But, does it take place if the lawsuit is filed with the courts of another jurisdiction, a jurisdiction whose laws do not govern the merits?

Of course, the answer depends on what the rules of limitation of the jurisdiction whose law governs the merits, say.


In the province of Quebec, the rule pertaining to the interruption of limitation is found in Article2892 of the Quebec Civil Code which reads, in part, as follows:

"Art.2892. The filing of a judicial demand before the expiry of the ..."

What constitutes a "judicial demand"?

Those are the key words.  Indeed, if it is not a "judicial demand", there will be no interruption and limitation will continue to run. 

The leading case on point, in Quebec, is the case of Drouin vs. Centre Hospitalier Fleury [1988] R.R.A.102 (Quebec Superior Court).

The facts are as follows: A physician, who had been dismissed by a clinic, appealed the decision of the clinic to a specialized administrative government board which allowed his appeal.  The physician then decided to sue the clinic before the regular courts, essentially for wrongful dismissal. At the date of filing of his lawsuit, the applicable limitation period had run out.  The defendant clinic sought the dismissal of the lawsuit on that basis.  The physician argued that the filing of his appeal with the administrative government board, years before, had interrupted the limitation period.

The court ruled that the expression "judicial demand" in Article 2224 of the then "Civil Code of Lower Canada" (now Art.2892 of the new Quebec Civil Code) should be...

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