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Know your limitations

11 August 2010

Williams v Lishman is the latest in a line of cases where the courts have looked at the date investors suffered loss. The claim involved negligent advice in relation to the transfer of pension funds. The claimant’s hopes were crushed when the appeal court ruled that the claim was time-barred. Partner Paul Gordon gives a short run-down on the limitation periods that apply.

The longer the delay in bringing a claim to court, the more likely it is that essential documents will have become unavailable, witnesses will be harder to locate or their memories may have faded. The law therefore lays down time periods in which a court claim must be brought. But there are different time periods for different types of action.

For example, a defamation claim must be brought in one year, a personal injury claim in three years, a claim in contract or negligence within six years, and a claim for the recovery of land, and for money secured by a mortgage over land, in twelve years.

The start point of the time period also varies depending upon the cause of action. For instance, in contract claims, it runs from the date when the contract was breached. In negligence claims it tends to run for six years from the date of the negligent act though it is possible to extend the period if the damage complained of was not discovered until after the expiry of the six-year limitation. In these circumstances  (known as ‘latent damage’) the claim can be brought three years from the date of the loss or when the claimant ought to have reasonably known of the loss. It is subject to a long-stop date of fifteen years from the negligent act.

Before pursuing a claim through the courts, it is vital to consider all the relevant facts relating to limitation periods to make sure they are not likely to prevent a claim.


If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Paul Gordon LLB
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