Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Limitation Periods ? Know Your Dates!

With Watson Burton LLP Law FirmThe Limitation Act 1980 imposes strict time limits within which legal proceedings must be commenced. They are intended to prevent claimants from delaying bringing their claim, and to protect defendants from being held liable indefinitely. If a limitation period has expired for a particular claim, the claim will be statute-barred and it will not be possible for the claimant to recover damages. For breach of contract, claimants have six years from the date of breach to bring their claim. In negligence, claimants have six years from the date on which they suffered the loss complained of, or three years from when they have “knowledge of the material facts about the damage in respect of which damages are claimed” to commence legal proceedings.The date of knowledge can often be a source of contention, as it is not always easy to identify the exact date on which a possible claim in negligence arises. The House of Lords recently considered this in the case of Haward –v– Fawcetts [2006], in which damages in professional negligence were claimed against a firm of accountants. A defence of limitation was pleaded and the court found in favour of the defendants, deciding that the claimant is only required to know “enough for it to be reasonable to begin to investigate further”. The court held that “reasonable belief” as to the existence of a possible claim in negligence will suffice in order to constitute the date of deemed knowledge.The claimant may not therefore be required to have a great deal of knowledge before the limitation clock starts to run. As this is a particularly complex area of law, advice should therefore be sought at an early stage to ensure that the strict time limits imposed by the Act are complied with. If you have any questions in relation to this article, please contact Stephen McLelland at Watson Burton LLP on 0191 244 4444 or

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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