Nothing in this Act affects any equitable jurisdiction to refuse relief on the ground of acquiescence or otherwise.
Any claim by way of set-off or counterclaim shall be deemed to be a separate action and to have been commenced on the same date as the action in which the set-off or counterclaim is pleaded.
A six-year time limit applies for actions for breach of contract. Where the contract is executed under seal (more formally, as a deed) a 12-year time limit applies. The limitation period runs from the “accrual” of the action.
An action for an account shall not be brought in respect of any matter which arose more than six years before the commencement of the action.
The following actions may not be brought after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the cause of action accrued:
- an action upon an instrument under seal, other than an action upon an instrument under seal to recover arrears of a rentcharge or of a conventional rent, or any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge, or ) arrears of interest in respect of any sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge, or arrears of an annuity charged on personal property;
- an action to enforce an award, where the arbitration agreement is under seal;
- an action to recover a debt created by certain debenture instrument
An action shall not be brought upon a judgment after the expiration of twelve 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.
A “penalty” does not include a fine to which any person is liable on conviction of a criminal offence. An action to recover any penalty or forfeiture, or sum by way of penalty or forfeiture, recoverable by virtue of any enactment shall not be brought after the expiration of two years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
The above provision does not apply to any claim for specific performance of a contract or for an injunction or for other equitable relief.
Breach of Contract
Accrual of an action for breach of contract takes place where there has been a breach. In the case of a contract, this may take place without the plaintiff having suffered damage. Damage is not a necessary element of a claim for breach of contract, although if may be a practical requirement in order to justify the commencement of legal proceedings.
This contrasts with the position in respect of negligence. Damages are a requirement for a claim in the negligence. There is no claim, and the limitation period does not commence to run until there has been some loss, damage or injury. This contrasts with the positions where the claim is based on breach of contract, where the limitation period may commence before there is any loss or damage,
A six-year time limit applies to claims in most areas of restitution. The general rule is that a claim based on quasi-contract is subject to a 6 year limitations period.
Equitable Relief Extension of Time
If equitable relief is claimed, then strictly speaking no time limit applies. However, in practice, equitable remedies are subject to a more rigorous test under the principle of laches. Under this principle, the failure to take action promptly may preclude equitable relief. There is no strict time limit, but it depends on the circumstances. Laches may arise after a number of weeks or months.
The limitations time limits may be extended if certain factors operate. This may arise in respect of concealment, fraud, disability, part payment or acknowledgement. Principles of estoppel may also apply. See generally the sections which deal with these factors.
In some cases, the same circumstances will give rise to claim for breach of contract and in tort, typically negligence. With a tort, the damage itself is an element of the claim, so that this may occur later than the negligent act or omission. Because of this, the tort limitation period is frequently more attractive. Tort also allows a greater degree of recovery than a breach of contract claim.
However, outside of a personal injury claim, the existence of non-discoverable damage will cause the commencement of the limitation period. If the claim relates to personal injuries, a two-year time limit applies, which is subject to special discoverability principles.
Personal injuries do not commonly arise in circumstances that constitute a breach of contract only. There will commonly be a concurrent claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty. In some cases, the contract may define the extent of the duty.
Accrual of Claim
A claim will accrue when every element necessary to succeed in the claim has taken place. Until then, by definition, there can be no claim. Questions of interpretation may arise as to when a cause of action has accrued.
There may be a non-fundamental breach of contract, such as where there has been a delay in performance which constitutes a breach of contract, where performance may still be possible. The other party may not yet be able to terminate and sue for breach of contract. In other cases, the claimant may have an option to terminate, but may not be obliged to do so. The limitations period does not commence until there is a right to bring a claim, but this may require a prior step by the claimant.
In the case of loans, the date of breach is a matter of interpretation. It is generally provided that the time limit runs from the date of demand of loan. If there is no set date for repayment, it is usually implied that the loan is repayable on demand. Commonly it is expressly provided that repayment is on demand. It is a matter of interpretation as to whether the demand is pre-conditional on a demand.
This issue may be significant in the context of forbearance on loans. There may be acknowledgements, by part payment. However, a debt/loan may become statute barred if it is not repaid in a due date unless the repayment obligation is interpreted as requiring a prior demand.
The same principle applies to bank accounts. A bank account in the part of a customer is a debt owed by the bank or financial institution. In accordance with general principles, the account is presumed to be payable on demand. Otherwise, bank accounts would often become statute-barred after six years, being a debt on the part of the lender.
Bills of exchange usually mature on a stated date. The date is usually fixed or ascertainable. A protest is required in the case of default in some case of default by non-payment or non-acceptance. Rights may be lost unless asserted promptly.
Guarantees are usually payable on demand. This is a matter of interpretation of the guarantee. The making of a formal demand is usually a condition of liability. It may, however, be the cases of matter of interpretation that liability arises automatically upon default. Most professionally drafted bank guarantees require a demand as a pre-condition of liability.
Insurance contracts as with other contracts of indemnity will usually accrue when there is a loss. Ultimately that matter it will turn on the true interpretation of the terms of the policy itself.
Where remuneration falls to be decided in accordance with the restitutionary principles, liability generally arises once the works concerned are complete.
Obligations by Deed
A 12-year time limit applies to certain contracts under seal. Certain legally significant documents, such as transfers of real property were required to be made under seal at common law. The 2009 Conveyancing and Land Law Reform Act 2009 has substituted the requirement for sealing and delivery, with that of execution and delivery as a deed. This is a matter of intention. A witness is mandatory.
The actions must be based on breach of a contract which is itself under seal The following actions are subject to a twelve years’ limitation period. They may not be taken t after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the cause of action accrued:—
- an action upon an instrument under seal, other than an action upon an instrument under seal to recover
- an action to enforce an award, where the arbitration agreement is under seal;
- certain liability of company members to the company and each other constituted in the company’s constitution.
The 12-year period does not apply to arrears of rent, actions to recover
- arrears of rent;
- any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge, or
- arrears of interest in respect of any sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge, or
- arrears of an annuity charged on personal property;
A six-year time limit applies to actions in quasi-contract or so-called unjust enrichment. In some cases, the other considerations apply. Where the remedy sought is equitable in nature, the general principles applicable to those types of remedy apply.
It may not be self-evident in some cases when the cause of action has accrued. In the case of some civil wrongs, the right to take action arises without proof of loss. Other types of case require proof of loss or damage (physical injury damage to property or financial economic loss). Others types of civil wrong involve continuing loss so that a new claim accrues from moment to moment and the right accrues every day.
Special time limits apply to other types of civil claims.
Personal injury actions are subject to special consideration which linked with the requirement to refer the case to the Injuries Board in the first instance, before taking legal proceedings.
Difficult questions can arise where a civil wrong leads to several types of damage. There may be knock-on, indirect losses or so-called consequential losses, which arise in the future or which develop over time. The courts usually take the approach that cause of action accrues there is a substantial or real injury.
The general position is that the future loss or the gradual development of loss arising after the initial substantial loss, injury or damage, does not give rise to a new cause of action. In some more unusual circumstances, further loss or damage may be interpreted to be a separate loss, such as to give rise to a new claim and involve the accrual of a new cause of action..
Difficult dilemmas can arise for the law, can arise where an injury or loss accrues before the claimant had knowledge of it. The policy of the law is to require early finality, but such cases can give rise to injustice.
In some common law jurisdictions, the general rule is that a cause of action does not accrue at all until the plaintiff knows or should know that there has been loss or damage. However, in Ireland, the Supreme Court has held that unknown and undiscoverable loss or damage may occur, causing a claim in negligence (and other torts) to accrue, so that the cause of action is barred before it is known.
Irish Statute law has reversed the above position, in relation to personal injury actions based on negligence or breach of duty.. It remains the position in respect of other types of actions, including claims for financial loss. According, the Supreme Court held in 2012 that in the case of a loss arising from the alleged mis-selling of financial products, the loss could arise at the very outset due to the faulty nature of the product, even though its consequence did not become apparent until many years later after the limitations period had. Once there is damage or loss beyond that which is negligible, the Supreme Court held that the limitations period would run.
Extension of Time
The separate principles of concealment, mistake and fraud may in some cases relieve the consequences of the absence of a general discoverability exception The courts may apply the broader principles of equitable fraud to fiduciary relationships, such as the case of some confidants and advisors
Where there is a trustee and beneficiary relationship between the time limits may be suspended and extended. No period of limitation applies to an action against a trustee or any person claiming through him where the claim is founded on any fraud or fraudulent breach of trust to which the trustee was party or privy, or the claim is to recover trust property or the proceeds thereof still retained by the trustee or previously received by the trustee and converted to his own use.
A “trustee” under the Act does not include a person whose fiduciary relationship arises merely by construction or implication of law and whose fiduciary relationship is not deemed by any rule of law to be that of an express trustee.
There had been suggestions that the result of the above principles, may bar proceedings in cases where the loss or damage is not at all discoverable, may be contrary to the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees of access of the courts. However, the Supreme Court has nonetheless come down in favour of the principle on a number of occasions.
Cases in relation to latent property defects suggest that time runs where there is a manifest defect, even if it has not come to the claimant\’s attention. This does not, however, equate a discoverability test. Difficult questions have arisen, in particular in cases of financial loss caused by negligence. The courts have taken differing views as to the extent to which the loss or damage must be manifest or evident before the cause of action accrues.
It is a general principle that when a loss is suffered arising from a particular act or event, all present, future and contingent loss should be sued for in a single proceeding. Once there is appreciable loss or injury the claim taken cover all such present future and possible loss. All underlying rights arising from the circumstances are converted into the rights that are declared and ordered by the judgement and are thereby extinguished.
A defamation action may not be brought after the expiration of one year, or such longer period as the court may direct not exceeding 2 years, from the date on which the cause of action accrued. The court shall not give a direction extending time unless it is satisfied that the interests of justice require the giving of the direction and that the prejudice that the plaintiff would suffer if the direction were not given would significantly outweigh the prejudice that the defendant would suffer if the direction were given.
The court shall, in deciding whether to give such a direction, have regard to the reason for the failure to bring the action within the period specified and the extent to which any evidence relevant to the matter is by virtue of the delay no longer capable of being adduced.
For the purposes of bringing a defamation action, the date of accrual of the cause of action shall be the date upon which the defamatory statement is first published and, where the statement is published through the medium of the internet, the date on which it is first capable of being viewed or listened to through that medium.
Where in a claim for movable property (goods) is not brought within six years, the title to immovable are extinguished. In most cases, a 12 years limitations period applies in relation to claim relating to land (and land and buildings). This period may be on the general bases including acknowledgement and disability et cetera.
The period runs from the taking of the goods, where the person is lawfully in possession of the goods. Time will run from the refusal to deliver back when lawfully required to do so. The time limit may be extended where the claim is based on fraudulent concealment.
Where any cause of action in respect of the conversion or wrongful detention of a chattel has accrued to any person, and before he recovers possession of the chattel, a further conversion or wrongful detention takes place, then, no action shall be brought in respect of the further conversion or wrongful detention after the expiration of six years from the accrual of the cause of action in respect of the original conversion or wrongful detention.
Where any cause of action in respect of the conversion or wrongful detention of a chattel has accrued to any person, and the period fixed for bringing that action and for bringing any action in respect of such a further conversion or wrongful detention above has expired, and he has not during that period recovered possession of the chattel, then, title of that person to the chattel shall be extinguished.
No action shall be brought to recover any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or charge on land or personal property (other than a ship) after the expiration of twelve years from the date when the right to receive the money accrued.
The right to receive any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed not to accrue so long as the property subject to the mortgage or charge comprises any future interest or any life insurance policy which has not matured or been determined.
There are special rules applicable to defective products. An action may be taken within three years of the date on which the claimant became aware or should reasonably have become aware of the damage, the defect and the identity of the producer.
However, the right of action is extinguished 10 years after the date on which the product which caused the damage was put into circulation. If proceedings are not taken before then. This applies whether or not the right accrued or the time began to run during that period.
An action may be brought for contribution within the same period as the injured person is allowed by law for bringing an action against the contributor, or within the period of two years after the liability of the claimant is ascertained or the injured person\’s damages are paid, whichever is the greater.