McDonnell v Congregation of Christian Brothers Trustees (Formerly Irish Christian Brothers) and others: HL 4 Dec 2003

In 2000, the claimant sought damages for sexual abuse from before 1951. The issue was as to whether the limitation law which applied was that as at the date of the incidents, or that which applied as at the date when he would be deemed uner the modern law to have acquired knowledge of the possibility of claiming.
Held: Though the 1963 Act, consolidated in the 1980 Act, was framed to remedy the injustice of Cartledge, it did not extend the law to override an accrued statutory time bar to pre-1954 six-year claims: ‘an accrued right to plead a time bar, which is acquired after the lapse of the statutory period, is in every sense a right, even though it arises under an Act which is procedural. It is a right which is not to be taken away by conferring on the statute a retrospective operation, unless such a construction is unavoidable.’ The decision in Arnold was not so wrong as to allow the House to depart from it. The claim failed.


Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead Lord Steyn Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough Lord Rodger of Earlsferry


[2003] UKHL 63, Times 05-Dec-2003, [2004] 1 AC 1101


House of Lords, Bailii


Limitation Act 1939 2(1) 22


England and Wales


CitedCartledge 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 . .
CitedKnipe v British Railways Board CA 1972
The plaintiff was injured in 1948, but it later became more serious, and in 1970, having obtained leave under the 1963 Act, he issued proceedings. The defendants argued that his claim was statute-barred under section 2(1). The defendant appealed. . .
CitedArnold v Central Electricity Generating Board HL 22-Oct-1987
The plaintiff was widow and administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband. He had worked from April 1938 to April 1943 for a predecessor to the CEGB. He had been exposed to asbestos dust as a result of his employer’s negligence and breach of . .
CitedYew Bon Tew v Kenderaan Bas Mara PC 7-Oct-1982
(Malaysia) In 1972 the appellants were injured by the respondent’s bus. At that time the local limitation period was 12 months. In 1974 the limitation period became three years. The appellants issued a writ in 1975. To succeed they would have to sue . .
AppliedFitzleet Estates Ltd v Cherry HL 9-Nov-1977
Income tax – Schedule D, Cases III and VI – Payments of interest and ground rent incurred when property was being developed – Whether capitalised or paid out of profits or gains brought into charge to tax – Income Tax Act 1952 (15 and 16 Geo. 6 and . .
MentionedStubbings v Webb and Another HL 10-Feb-1993
Sexual Assault is not an Act of Negligence
In claims for damages for child abuse at a children’s home made out of the six year time limit time were effectively time barred, with no discretion for the court to extend that limit. The damage occurred at the time when the child left the home. A . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina on the Application of G v Westminster City Council QBD 30-Jan-2004
The child sought review of the respondent’s decision not to provide education other than at one school. He had been suspended, but his father refused to allow him to return complaining of the effects of bullying.
Held: The condition of being . .
CitedKing v The Serious Fraud Office CACD 18-Mar-2008
Restraint and Disclosure orders had been made on without notice applications at the request of South Africa. The applicant appealed a refusal of their discharge.
Held: Such orders did not apply to the applicant’s assets in Scotland. The orders . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Limitation, Personal Injury

Updated: 08 June 2022; Ref: scu.188434