The Limitation Act 1980 (c. 58) is a British Act of Parliament applicable only to England and Wales. It is a statute of limitations which provides timescales within which action may be taken (by issuing a claim form) for breaches of the law. For example it provides that breaches of an ordinary contract are actionable for six years after the event whereas breaches of a deed are actionable for twelve years after the event. In most cases, after the expiry of the time periods specified in the Act the remedies available for breaches are extinguished and no action may be taken in the courts in respect of those breaches.
The ordinary time limits allowed by the act are set out below. These limits may, in some cases, be extended or altered. Most of the time limits run from the day after the accrual of action, which is "the earliest time at which an action could be brought". If the potential claimant was not at least 18 or did not have a sound mind at the time of the accrual of action, time will not run until he is at least 18 and has sound mind. Where there has been fraud or concealment, or the action is for relief from the consequences of a mistake, time will not run until the fraud, concealment or mistake is discovered or could with reasonable diligence be discovered.
Ordinarily applicable limitation periods for common types of claim
^Limitation Act 1980, s. 2. If latent damage is discovered, the claimant will have three years from the date at which the claimant is deemed to have known of the damage to make a claim in negligence, up to a maximum of 15 years from the accrual of the cause of action: Limitation Act 1980, ss. 14A and 14B
^From the date of accurual of the cause of action or knowledge, whichever is later: Limitation Act 1980, s. 11(4). The date of knowledge is where the claimant had knowledge and could reasonable have ascertained (with or without the help of expert advice) such facts so as to have knowledge: (s. 14)
that the injury in question was significant; and
that the injury was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence, nuisance or breach of duty; and
the identity of the defendant; and
if it is alleged that the act or omission was that of a person other than the defendant, the identity of that person and the additional facts supporting the bringing of an action against the defendant.
The court may allow an action to proceed despite the expiry of the time limit (s. 33) if it would be equitable to do so, taking into account particularly:
potential prejudice to the claimant and defendant;
length of delay and reasons for delay;
extent to which the evidence is likely to be less cogent;
conduct of the defendant in responding to requests for information, etc.;