LIMITATION AMNESTIES: AN INTERESTING CASE
There is an interesting case comment on the DACbeachcroft website in relation to limitation amnesties.
Andrews v South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
The comment is by Joe Walton. It reports a case where a claimant sought an extension of time to serve her claim.
Prior to the issue of proceedings the claimant had not sought a limitation amnesty from the defendant. It was the policy of the claimant’s solicitor not to request an amnesty but to issue protectively.
The defendant agreed to the claimant’s application for an extension of time. The only issue at the application was one of costs. The claimant sought the costs on the grounds that the defendant should have agreed. The defendant sought its costs on the basis that it would have agreed to a limitation amnesty and the application was unnecessary.
The District Judge is reported as stating “that it would have been sensible and proportionate to seek a limitation amnesty and therefore the Defendant was right to seek its costs of the application and ordered that the Claimant pay the Defendants costs.”
There is surprisingly little written on limitation amnesties, despite these being a feature of personal injury and clinical negligence in particular. Points to watch are:
- Make the terms of any agreement absolutely clear. “A further 3 months”, for instance, invites problems as to the date the period started. Give clear dates,particularly as to when the agreement expires.
- If there is a general amnesty make sure that the agreement incorporates a reasonable period of notice to enable the claimant to issue proceedings if the defendant withdraws the agreement.
- The case shows that it is prudent to ask for a limitation amnesty prior to issuing.
THIS CAN (PRESUMABLY) WORK BOTH WAYS
There could be circumstances in which a defendant unreasonably refuses to agree a limitation amnesty. In these circumstances the defendant could be liable for the costs of issue and/or any application to extend.