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Time Limits For Bringing Contract Or Negligence Claims

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Limitation Act 1980 is a law that places statutory time limits on the issuing of court claims. According to the act an action must be commenced within the appropriate time limit otherwise it invalid and cannot be issued. It is important to note that once the claim form is lodged at court the limitation time limit no longer applies and the case can take as long as necessary to be resolved.

What deadlines apply to contractual claims?

There are many different deadlines prescribed by the Act. The first notable deadline relates to contractual claims. The Act states that where there is a simple contract the deadline shall be 6 years from the date of the breach. However, if the contract is made under seal, and is thus a deed, the time limit doubles to 12 years. Therefore, a very early task for potential litigants who may be concerned about limitation deadlines is to check the formation of the contract. If a client finds a simple contract is actually a deed, this gives them an additional 6 years to compile the evidence and bring a claim.

What about negligence claims?

Negligence claims are also a key part of the Limitation Act 1980. These claims, except for personal injury and death, have a time limit of 6 years starting with the date the damage occurs, not the date of the act. However, where the damage is not known to the claimant at the time, but is known from a later date, Section 14A of the statute provides an alternative limitation date of 3 years from the date on which the claimant would have had reasonable knowledge of the damage. The definition of damage has been subject to judicial case law.

In Jacobs v Sesame [2014], it was found that in the case of financial mismanagement, the limitation period begins when it was found the claimant had reasonable knowledge to bring a course of action; in this case, the delivery of receipts. By checking the receipts for signs of misuse, the claimant would have been able to see that there was evidence to bring a course of action against her financial provider. Thus, the three year limitation period began on this date. As the claimant had failed to make the appropriate enquiries with her financial provider, or carefully check the paperwork, it was unable to use Section 14A in order to save its claim from being struck out for being outside the limitation period. The case sends a clear warning to practitioners that limitation periods will, on the whole, be strictly enforced with little if any consideration given to other circumstances.


In conclusion, the Limitation Act restricts the time in which cases can be brought for litigation to a statutory time limit. The Act has created some degree of security for businesses and supports a claimant led litigation system, whereby it is the onus on the claimant to bring a claim within the relevant limitation period. For specialist advice about making a legal claim contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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