A claim must be brought within the relevant limitation period. If the limitation period has expired, then the claim may be time-barred and the defendant may have a complete defence to the claim.
Limitation is a defence which must be pleaded by the defendant. The courts will not time-bar a claim of their own volition. Once the defendant has raised the defence of limitation, the burden is on the claimant to prove that the claim is not time-barred.
The ordinary time limits in respect of various causes of action are set out in the Limitation Act 1980 (“the Act”).
Where a claim form as issued was received in the court office on a date that is earlier than the date on which it was issued by the court, the claim is “brought” for the purposes of the Act on that earlier date.
Actions founded on tort
6 years from the date on which the loss or damage is suffered.
Actions founded on simple contract
6 years from the date of the breach of contract.
General rule for actions on a specialty (contracts by deed)
12 years from the date on which the cause of action arose.
Actions in respect of trust property (Section 21 of the Act)
No period of limitation prescribed by the Act applies to an action by a beneficiary under a trust in respect of any fraud or fraudulent breach of trust to which the trustee was a party or privy; or to recover from the trustee trust property or the proceeds of trust property in the possession of the trustee, or previously received by the trustee and converted to his use.
Time limit for actions to enforce judgments (Section 24 of the Act)
An action shall not be brought upon any judgment after the expiration of six years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable. No arrears of interest in respect of any judgment debt shall be recovered after the expiration of six years from the date on which the interest became due.
Fraud, concealment and mistake (Section 32 of the Act)
In cases where:-
- An action is based upon a fraud by the defendant; or
- Any fact relevant to the claimant’s cause of action has been deliberately concealed by the defendant; or
- The action is for relief from the consequences of a mistake,
the period of limitation shall not begin to run until the date on which the claimant has discovered the fraud, concealment or mistake or the date on which the claimant could have discovered it with reasonable diligence.