Limitations on proceedings

The public inquiry initiated as a result of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower led to similar buildings clad in similar materials being examined and found wanting, leaving many people considering commencing proceedings. However, they must first consider the limitation rules.

Generally, a legal claim in tort, contract or statute cannot be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued (see ss 2,5 and 9 of Part I of the Limitation Act, 1980 – ‘the Act’) but there are legal exceptions. Part II of the Act deals with extensions to and/or exclusions of the usual time limits including at s 32, postponement of the usual time limits in cases of fraud, or a defendant deliberately concealing a fact relevant to the claim arising as a consequence of a mistake. In such a case, the time period does not commence until the claimant has discovered the fraud, concealment or mistake or could, with reasonable diligence have discovered it.

In RG Securities (No. 2) Ltd v Allianz Global Corp and others [2020] EWHC 1646 (TCC), RG Securities bought a block of flats in Ipswich in April 2015. Built in the 1960s, it was substantially refurbished between 2006 and 2009. This included the cladding of the building with materials alleged by RG Securities to be highly inflammable and used by the contractor (Maskell, the third defendant) in breach of Building Regulations. The claimant commenced proceedings on 10 December 2019 claiming the building is not fit for habitation in breach of the Defective Premises Act, 1972.

Maskell said the claim is statute barred and applied for an order by way of summary judgement (i.e. without a full trial), striking out the claim according to Part 24 of the Civil Procedure Rules (‘CPR’). However, it came to light that a final Building Consent approval had not been obtained by Maskell. The claimant said Maskell had deliberately concealed this fact from the claimant and the calculation of time did not commence until the claimant became aware of the concealment (April 2016).

Considering previous cases, the judge said he must be cautious about making a summary determination where reasonable grounds exist for believing that a fuller investigation into the facts of the case would add to or alter the evidence available to a trial judge and refused summary judgement.

Although the case turns on its own particular facts, it is an interesting reminder re the limitation rules.

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