The Statute of Limitations provides time limits for the commencement of legal action. The purpose is to ensure that claimants make their claim within a reasonable time and that defendants do not have to defend a claim, long after the relevant facts and event has occurred.
The Act sets the latest date for the commencement of legal proceedings. In the District Court, the issue of the summons is deemed to take place on service. In the Circuit Court and High Court, the claim is commenced, when the civil bill or summons is issued.
The claim periods generally cease to run once legal proceedings are commenced (issued). There are slight differences as to what constitutes commencement of the claim under the rules for the various courts. Once proceedings are issued, they must be served within a certain time
There are different time limits which apply to different claims.
A claim for personal injury is one arising from bodily injury. Such a claim must be brought within two years of the date when the claimant had the relevant knowledge or means of knowledge. The date of knowledge is when the claimant had knowledge that the injury had occurred, that it was significant, that it was due to an act or omission which is alleged to be negligent and the identity of the defendant or another partly responsible.
A person will be deemed to have the knowledge if he might reasonably have been expected to have had knowledge from observable or ascertainable facts or from facts which could have been discovered by medical or appropriate expert advice that is reasonable to seek.
As explained separately, personal injuries or fatal injury claims must be made first to the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB). The limitation period stops when the notice of the claim has been acknowledged by the PIAB. It recommences six months after the issue of an authorisation to proceed by the PIAB.
In personal injury cases, a letter of claim must be sent within 2-month date of the event or as soon a possible. Failure to so do could lead to the person concerned being penalised in terms of costs.
There are special time limits under the Defamation Act to claims for defamation, formerly libel and slander. The 2009 Act provides that an action for defamation must be brought within a year after the defamation is first published. The court may allow a longer period of up to a maximum of 2 years if it is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice that this be done and that the prejudice which the plaintiff would suffer would not significantly outweigh the prejudice that the defendant would suffer if it did not allow the extension.
In considering an extension of time to bring a defamation case, the court is to have regard to the reason for the failure to bring the action within the period and the extent to which the evidence relevant to the matter is by virtue of the delay, no longer capable of being put forward. Where a person is under disability, the period to take an action for defamation is extended up to one year after the disability ends or up to two years on the basis of an extension, on the almost the same criteria as above.
Other Civil Wrongs
The time limit for civil claims apart from personal injuries arising from negligence and breach of duties is six years from the date of the relevant event. In this case, that period runs from the date the wrong is committed. In the case of negligence, this is the date the loss or dame occurs because loss or damage to the claimant is an ingredient of the claim.
The date of knowledge is irrelevant, although in most cases this will be apparent. It does matter not matter that the person did or did not know that, legally, there was negligence nuisance or a breach of duty. Knowledge of the actual facts or events is what matters
A civil claim is included deformation damage to business reputation and a host of other such claims, negligence and not causing personal-injury e.g. economic lost damage to property etc
Where a claim for personal injury is based on assault and battery or physical direct physical interference, the time limit is six years.
Breach of Contract
Claims based on the breach of a contract must be commenced within six years of the breach. There is no extension of the time limit on the basis of lack of knowledge.
The right to take legal action commences immediately upon the breach of the contract, In contrast, with a claim for negligence, the right to commence legal action commences when there is actual loss or damage. The practical effect of this is significant.
There can be a breach of contract which does not cause any obvious loss or damage for many years (e.g. a hidden defect). In this case, the claim for breach of contract must be made within six years of the original breach, even if damage or loss has yet occurred. The claim for negligence, which might also exist on the same facts, runs from the date that damage or loss occurs.
Debts are usually based on contracts. The time limit is six years.
The time limit can start again if the defendant acknowledges the debt or makes part payment. The acknowledgement must be in writing and signed by the debt or his agent. It must be made to the creditor. Part payment must be to the creditor.
A claim in relation to a defective product must be brought in three years of the date of sale or damage or, if later, the date when the claimant became aware or should reasonably have become aware of the producer and the defect. However, in any event, the claim must be brought within ten years of the product being put into circulation.
A right to recover possession land must be taken within twelve e years of when it could first be taken. This rule effectively means that legal action must be taken against a squatter in possession land within 12 years, or the claimant’s title will be lost. It will be too late to take legal action to recover. See our property guides.
Death of Defendant
Where a person dies and there was a right to take the claim outstanding at the days of his death, the claim must be brought within two years This time limit cannot be extended.
If, for example a loan is in default before death and the right to take a claim for repayment existed before death, the two year period applies If on the other hand, the right to take the claim did not arise until after death e.g. a loan was being serviced up to date of debt the period is normal (usually six years) .
Where a person has been killed as a result of negligence or breach of duty the personal representatives may take legal action against the person at fault. The claim must be bought within two years of death or the date of knowledge of the person for whose benefit the action is taken.
In exceptional circumstances, the time limits for commencing a claim may be extended.
The fact that a mistake has been made is not generally enough to allow a time extension. Where a claim is based on a mistake which negates a contract, the time limit commences from when the mistake is discovered.
The period can be extended where a claim is based on fraud or where the defendant has concealed the claim by his fraud. The time runs from when the fraud is discovered or could have reasonably been discovered. Active steps must be that have been taken to conceal the wrongdoing or breach of contract. An example of concealment may be where a solicitor failed to inform the client of the failure to commence legal action in circumstances were active enquiries were made. There must be a willful concealment.
Under Age / Unsound Mind
A person under a so-called “disability” is usually allowed extra time to commence legal action. Persons under Eighteen years of age and persons of unsound mind are deemed to be is under a disability. The time limit usually commences when the person under the disability ceases to be under disability; e.g. reaches 18, ceases to be unable to manage his/her affairs.
A person will only be part of unsound mind if he can be shown to be incapable of managing his affairs.
In the case of a claim for a personal injury, the claim must be brought within two years from the date on which the person ceased to be under the disability.
Discretionary Bars Based on Delay
There are certain legal and equitable principles by which the court may, at its discretion, refuse a claim, although it is within the relevant limitation period. Where there has been an unjustified inordinate and inexcusable delay so that it would be highly unjust for the defences to be expected to defend the case the court may not allow a claim to proceed.