The claimant sought damages from his accountants, claiming negligence. The accountants pleaded limitation. They had advised him in connection with an investment in a company which investment went wrong.
Held: It was argued that the limitation period was to be extended until three years after the discovery by the claimant of why it was that the advice he had received was negligent. Such an extension would defeat the balance sought to be struck by parliament, and was not justifiable. It was for the claimant to establish his state of mind at different times so as to allow calculation of when the limitation period started. The claimant in this case had not discharged that burden so as to establish the date of commencement for time he argued. His claim failed.
Lord Mance said: ‘Under section 14A the onus is on a claimant to plead and prove that he first had the knowledge required for bringing his action within a period of three years prior to its bringing.’
Where the claim rests on an allegation of negligent advice, the claimant must ‘know that the advice may be flawed, though he need not know that it was negligent’ Lord Nicholls said: ‘This feature of the advice cannot be brushed aside as a matter of detail. Nor can it be treated, as it was by the judge, as a matter going only to particulars. Far from it. This feature is the very essence of Mr Hawards’s claim. Stated in simple and broad terms, his claim is that Mr Austreng did not do his job properly. Time did not start to run against Mr Haward until he knew enough for it to be reasonable to embark on preliminary investigations into this possibility.
There may be cases where the defective nature of the advice is transparent on its face. It is not suggested that was so here. So, for time to run, something more was needed to put Mr Haward on inquiry. For time to start running there needs to have been something which would reasonably cause Mr Haward to start asking questions about the advice he was given.’
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Mance
 UKHL 9, Times 03-Mar-2006,  1 WLR 682,  Lloyd’s Rep PN 19
Limitation Act 1980 14
England and Wales
Cited – Cartledge v E Jopling and Sons Ltd HL 1963
The plaintiffs were steel dressers who, in the course of their employment, had inhaled quantities of noxious dust which had caused them to suffer from pneumoconiosis. They issued proceedings on 1 October 1956 but were unable to show any breach of . .
Cited – Pirelli General Cable Works v Oscar Faber and Partners HL 2-Jan-1983
The plaintiff asked the defendant consulting engineer to design an extension to their factory in 1969. Not later than in April 1970, cracks developed in the chimney. In 1977 the cause of the damage was discovered. It arose from design faults in the . .
Cited – Wilkinson v Ancliff (BLT) Ltd CA 1986
In order to be fixed with sufficient knowledge to start the limitation period running, it was not necessary for the plaintiff to have knowledge sufficient to enable his legal advisers to draft a fully and comprehensively particularised statement of . .
Cited – Halford v Brookes CA 1991
The plaintiff, the mother and administratrix of the estate of a 16 year old girl, alleged that her daughter had been murdered by one or both of the Defendants. The claim was for damages for battery. Rougier J at first instance had decided that: . .
Appeal from – Haward and Others v Fawcetts (A Firm) and Another CA 11-Mar-2004
The court looked at the date from which the limitation period ran in an action for professional negligence: ‘It is clear from the words of the section itself . . that it is concerned with knowledge of facts, as opposed to knowledge of matters of . .
Cited – Hendy v Milton Keynes Health Authority 1992
A potential plaintiff may have sufficient knowledge of the damage suffered to set the limitation period running, if she appreciates ‘in general terms’ that her problem was capable of being attributed to the operation, even where particular facts of . .
Cited – Spargo v North Essex District Health Authority CA 13-Mar-1997
The test of ‘When a plaintiff became aware of the cause of an injury’ is a subjective test of what passed through plaintiff’s mind. ‘(1) the knowledge required to satisfy s14(1)(b) is a broad knowledge of the essence of the causally relevant act or . .
Cited – Broadley v Guy Clapham and Co CA 9-Sep-1993
The limitation period starts when a reasonable person would have sought medical help. Section 14(1)(b) requires that ‘one should look at the way the plaintiff puts his case, distil what he is complaining about and ask whether he had in broad terms . .
Cited – Nash v Eli Lilly and Co CA 1993
The court considered whether a solicitor acting for a potential plaintiff was considered to be an expert for the purposes of the section.
Held: Purchas LJ said: ‘Of course as advice from a solicitor as to the legal consequences of the act or . .
Cited – A’court v Cross 1835
The Chief Justice commented on the 1623 Act, saying that he was ‘sorry to be obliged to admit that the courts of justice [had] been deservedly censured for their vacillating decisions’ and: ‘When by distinctions and refinements, which, Lord . .
Cited – Hallam-Eames and Others v Merrett Syndicates Ltd and Others CA 25-Jan-1995
Members of Lloyd’s who faced re-insurance underwriting liabilities alleged negligence on the part of the active underwriter, their members’ agents and their syndicates’ managing agents. Limitation defences were raised.
Held: Mere knowledge of . .
Cited – Dobbie v Medway Health Authority CA 11-May-1994
The plaintiff had a lump on her breast. The surgeon, without first subjecting the lump to a microscopic examination in order to determine whether it was cancerous or benign, removed the breast. This was in 1973. The lump was subsequently found to be . .
Cited – Smith v Central Asbestos Co Ltd; Central Asbestos Co Ltd v Dodd HL 1973
The House considered at what point an injured person was to be deemed to have become aware of his injury so as to start the limitation period.
Held: A majority rejected the proposition that knowledge of ‘material facts’ for section 1(3) . .
Cited – HF Pension Trustees Ltd v Ellison and Others ChD 24-Feb-1999
In an allegation of professional negligence which had lead to a transfer of funds, time ran for limitation purposes from the time of the transfer, and not from the point later when it became apparent that the legal advice may have been negligent. A . .
Cited – Hillsdown Holdings plc v Pensions Ombudsman 1997
The court had to answer the question of whether the Pensions Ombudsman could make orders which the court could not.
Held: It could not, Knox J said: ‘there is a real distinction between ordering compensation for inconvenience and distress . .
Cited – Cooper v Phibbs HL 1867
There is an exception to the general rule that a mistake of law does not vitiate a contract where the mistake was as to private rights. . .
Cited – Forster v Outred and Co CA 1981
A mother signed a mortgage deed charging her property to H as security for a loan to her son. She claimed the solicitor had been negligent in his advice. The solicitor replied that the claim was out of time. The loss accrued not when demand for . .
Cited – Guidera v NEI Projects (India) Ltd CA 30-Jan-1990
The word ‘attributable’ in the Act means ‘capable of being attributed’, rather than ’caused by’. . .
Cited – Kathleen Magaret Oakes v Mr P W Hopcroft CA 27-Jul-2000
The claimant needed correct medical advice and legal advice before she knew that she had settled her original personal injury claim at too low a figure. . .
Cited – Ali v Courtaulds Textiles Ltd CA 26-May-1999
A claimant was not fixed with knowledge of the source of his injury by being referred for medical opinion. He could not be expected to understand the source of this injury without expert assistance, and time did not run until such assistance was . .
Cited – Perry v Moysey 1998
Cited – Law Society v Sephton and Co (a Firm) and Others HL 10-May-2006
A firm of solicitors had a member involved in a substantial fraud. The defendant firm of accountants certified the firm’s accounts. There were later many calls upon the compensation fund operated by the claimants, who sought recovery in turn from . .
Cited – Farraj and Another v King’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Another QBD 26-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after the birth of their child with a severe hereditary disease which they said the defendant hospital had failed to diagnose after testing for that disease. The hospital sought a contribution from the company CSL who . .
Cited – M, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Home Department Admn 2-Dec-2010
Cited – St Anselm Development Company Ltd v Slaughter and May ChD 1-Feb-2013
The claimants appealed against rejection of their claim in negligence said to have been out of time. They had set out to sublet flats but their mistiming disallowed reclaiming of certain rents under the 1993 Act.
Held: The two flats were to be . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 28 January 2021; Ref: scu.238772