Back to our thinking

    Time limits still apply

    Summary

    Dispute Resolution Solicitor David Wright gives his expert opinion on common limitation periods amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

    With the outbreak of coronavirus and the advice which was issued by HM Government on Monday 16 March 2020, it is fair to say that these are serious and unprecedented times. It is natural to feel frightened and fearful of the future, however, whilst there are undoubtedly hurdles that will need to be overcome, it is important to ensure that everyday life is not lost entirely.

    It is equally important to take precautions to protect your position, despite these circumstances. Whilst it may not be at the top of your priority list, it is important to be aware that legal cases still adhere to strict deadlines for taking action, known as limitation periods. If these deadlines are missed, it may not be possible to bring a claim or seek to recover damages when someone has wronged you.

    Some of the more common limitation periods in the English and Welsh jurisdiction are:

    • Simple claims in contract: 6 years
    • Claims brought in respect of deeds: 12 years
    • Tort (excluding personal injury and latent damage): 6 years
    • Personal injury: 3 years
    • Negligence (in respect of latent damage): 6 years, or 3 years through exceptions subject to a maximum period 15 years from the negligent act or omission
    • Defamation: 1 year

    It may feel even harder to bring legal action in these times, because the public bodies which deal with disputes are increasingly overwhelmed and may not be able to respond as they would in usual circumstances. For example, we are aware that the Financial Ombudsman Service (“FOS”) is currently unable to take phone calls. This lack of contact, combined with courts issuing constantly changing guidance, may make it very daunting to make a complaint and have confidence that you have followed the correct procedure.

    There is existing caselaw exemplifying how the courts can treat a claim brought when the courts are closed, specifically the case of Pritam Kaur v S Russell and Sons Ltd: CA 2 Jun 1972. In this case, it was held by the Court of Appeal that if the court was closed on the weekend, then a claim could be issued the next day the court was open, if limitation expired when the court was closed.

    Whether further litigation on missed limitation arises as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak remains to be seen. Likewise, businesses and those you may have a valid complaint or claim against may not respond. It is important to follow the correct procedure and ensure that your right to bring a claim is not lost in these difficult times.

    We are currently assisting a wide variety of clients to ensure that whatever difficulties they may face at the moment, their position on limitation is protected in any disputes they may have. We are also actively continuing litigation for clients, especially those of urgent nature, or where delay will prejudice our client’s position.

    Should you need any dispute related advice, or have any questions regarding the above information, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Seddons’ Head of Dispute Resolution, Marvin Simons, on marvin.simons@seddons.co.uk.

    Share this article

    Similar articles

    More articles from Seddons