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 selection of materials. The defect could not have been discovered before 1972.
Held: The defendant’s appeal was allowed. In cases of physical damage, caused by negligent design or construction of a building, the cause of action occurred when the damage came into existence, whether or not it was discovered or discoverable at that time.
Lord Fraser said: ‘there is an element of confusion between damage to the plaintiff’s body and latent defect in the foundations of a building. Unless the defect is very gross, it may never lead to any damage at all to the building. It would be analogous to a predisposition or natural weakness in the human body which may never develop into disease or injury. The plaintiff’s cause of action will not accrue until damage occurs, which will commonly consist of cracks coming into existence as a result of the defect even though the cracks or the defect may be undiscovered or undiscoverable.’


Lord Fraser


[1983] 1 All ER 65, [1983] 2 AC 1


England and Wales


CitedForster 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 . .
CitedJunior Books v Veitchi Co Ltd HL 15-Jul-1982
The defendant was a specialist sub-contractor brought in to lay a floor. In laying the composition floor the defenders used too wet a mixture and applied too thin a top coat and failed to cure the material properly. As a result cracks began to . .
CitedDarley Main Colliery Co v Mitchell HL 1886
The owner of land whose land was affected by subsidence in 1868 and who received compensation from those who had worked coal and caused the subsidence, was able, in 1882 when further subsidence took place causing further injury, to bring a fresh . .

Cited by:

ConsideredD W Moore and Co Ltd v Ferrier CA 1988
The company took in a new director and shareholder, and relied upon their solicitors to draft a covenant to restrain him competing within a set time of leaving the company. The covenant turned out to be ineffective. The defendant solicitors replied . .
CitedThe Law Society v Sephton and Co and others CA 13-Dec-2004
The Society appealed dismissal for limitation of its claim against the defendant firm of accountants arising from alleged fraud in approval of a solicitor’s accounts.
Held: The liability did not arise until the Society decided to make . .
CitedAbbott and Another v Will Gannon and Smith Ltd CA 2-Mar-2005
The claimant had employed the defendants to design refurbishment works for their hotel. The work was said to be negligent, and the claimant sought damages. The defendant argued as a preliminary point that the claim was time barred. The question was . .
CitedInvercargill City Council v Hamlin PC 12-Feb-1996
(New Zealand) Seventeen years earlier the plaintiff had asked a builder to construct a house for him, but it now appeared that the foundations had been inadequate. The building company no longer being in existence, he sought damages from the local . .
CitedPatterson v Ministry of Defence QBD 29-Jul-1986
The plaintiff had been exposed to asbestos when working for the defendant. X-rays revealed development of pleural plaques, but these would remain asymptomatic.
Held: Material damage sufficient to set time running was the same as damage . .
MentionedRothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd and Another CA 26-Jan-2006
Each claimant sought damages after being exposed to asbestos dust. The defendants resisted saying that the injury alleged, the development of pleural plaques, was yet insufficient as damage to found a claim.
Held: (Smith LJ dissenting) The . .
CitedHaward and others v Fawcetts HL 1-Mar-2006
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Limitation, Professional Negligence

Updated: 12 April 2022; Ref: scu.190062