What is the rush?
The Statute of Limitations Act 1957 and the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act 1991& 2000 are an important part of the legislative framework put in place to prevent perpetual litigation. In other words, this legislation ensures that there is a specific timeframe imposed on someone who wishes to take a claim for a wrong done on to them. These limitations cap one’s responsibility to a certain timeframe, and ensure witness testimonies remain somewhat fresh. If one does not take a claim within the specified limitation period their claim can become “statute barred” leading to often detrimental results which is explained below.
What sort of time do I have?
The Statutes set out specific guidelines that are to be followed depending on what type of action one is taking. Some of the more common limitation periods are as follows. An action for simple breach of contract has a limitation period of six years from the date of the contract. An action in tort, excluding personal injuries and defamation, has a limitation period of 6 years also. Actions claiming damages for personal injuries arising out of negligence have a limitation period of two years, however there are some exceptions to that which are set out below. An action for defamation has recently been limited to one year, with an increase to two years in certain circumstances. Actions for the recovery of land impose a limitation of twelve years; however this can vary, with up to sixty years for the recovery of state owned land! Lastly, there are very short limitation periods imposed on employment actions, and one should be alert to this. Usually a person will only have 6 months from the date of the action (e.g. dismissal) to take an employment claim. Time stops running when proceedings are issued. In the case of a personal injuries claim, time temporarily stops once the Injuries Board registers the application form; however it will run again once the Injuries Board issues an authorisation.
But I didn’t know I had a case until now!
There are some exceptions to the hardships that might otherwise occur to the strict imposition of time limits. One of these is the exception that is provided for by what is generally known as either “discoverability” or the “date of knowledge.” These exceptions are provided for in personal injuries actions. In essence, this allows somebody to take an action from the date they were aware they had an injury. If an injury occurs, but does not present itself for 18 months, then it does not mean that this person would only 6 months to take their action, in fact the person would have two years from the date the injury presented/ was discovered. This is a helpful safety net within the legislation to ensure that the time limit does not expire before a person discovers their injury/cause of action.
A recent example of where this exception was applied was the defective product cases involving the DePuy ASR Hip Implants. These implants were recalled in August 2010, however the Statute of Limitations was up for most patients by that time (i.e. they had the implants inserted before 2008). The date of knowledge exception was applied in this instance, which meant the patients, who became aware of the recall, had two years from August 2010 to take a personal injuries action against the manufacturers of the defective implants. This allowed the patients to take a claim even though they would have been ordinarily out of time.
Any other exceptions?
The Statute of Limitations does have some other exceptions to the ordinary limitation periods. These exceptions apply, for example, to people with an intellectual disability and minors (under 18 years of age). These categories of Plaintiff are permitted an extension on the usual time limit. For example a minor is allowed a further two years from the day of their 18th birthday to take a personal injuries action.
It is safer to move sooner rather than later. The Courts retain jurisdiction to stop a case proceeding, (even if started within the statutory time limits), if it can be shown that the delay in bringing the case has caused prejudice to a Defendant.
In a nutshell.
It is imperative that one contacts a Solicitor once a cause of action accrues. Not only is it essential to stop the time running to ensure one is not statute barred, one must also remember that a Judge will not take kindly to a Plaintiff that has simply delayed in taking a claim.
One must remember that a Judge has the power to stop a claim being brought if there has been prejudicial delay.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.