MYTHS ABOUT LIMITATION 1: IN A BREACH OF CONTRACT CASE THE LIMITATION PERIOD IS ALWAYS SIX YEARS

This is the first of a series of short posts about “myths” about limitation that sometimes exist in litigation, in personal injury in particular.  Myth 1 is that if you are bringing a claim based on breach of contract the limitation period is six years.

CLAIMS FOR  PERSONAL INJURY BASED ON BREACH OF CONTRACT ARE SUBJECT TO A THREE YEAR LIMITATION PERIOD

 The belief that a personal injury action based on a  contractual claim has a six year limitation period  is still propounded. It is wrong.

In  David Bond –v- Livingstone & Co  [2001] PNLR 30.the claimant suffered injuries in a clinic which was designed to cure baldness. Because this was a claim in contract the claimant’s solicitors believed (supported by the advice of two counsel) that there was a six year limitation period in contract.  The original defendants went into insolvency and a second action was issued (5 years after the event) against the credit card companies involved.

In fact the three year period in section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980 is the relevant period.  The court refused to exercise its discretion under section 33 and the claimant’s initial action failed.  The judgment is set out in some detail in the action for negligence against the solicitor where the High Court judge refused an appeal against summary judgment given for the claimant in the action against his solicitor.

Section 11 makes it clear that it deals with actions in relation to personal injury and specifically states that it governs actions in contract.

11Special time limit for actions in respect of personal injuries.

“(1)     This section applies to any action for damages for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty (whether the duty exists by virtue of a contract or of provision made by or under a statute or independently of any contract or any such provision) where the damages claimed by the plaintiff for the negligence, nuisance or breach of duty consist of or include damages in respect of personal injuries to the plaintiff or any other person.”