Ronex Properties v. John Laing Construction Ltd: CA 1983

The court considered a claim for contribution between tortfeasors. Donaldson LJ said: ‘The starting point of this submission is that a cause of action for contribution, under the Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act 1935, arises at the earliest when the claimant tortfeasor has been held liable, or has admitted liability to the plaintiff, and the amount of that liability has been ascertained by judgment or admission. This proposition is supported by dicta in George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. v. British Overseas Airways Corporation [1955] A.C. 169, per Viscount Simonds at p. 177, Lord Porter at p. 182 and Lord Keith at p. 193. It is also in accordance with the dictum of McNair J. in Harvey v. R.G.O’Dell Ltd. [1958] 2 Q.B. 78, 108, and it is consistent with the approach of Parliament in section 4 of the Limitation Act 1963. For my part I am content to assume that it is right.’
Stephenson LJ said: ‘There are many cases in which the expiry of the limitation period makes it a waste of time and money to let a plaintiff go on with his action. But in those cases it may be impossible to say that he has no reasonable cause of action. The right course is therefore for a defendant to apply to strike out the plaintiffs’ claim as frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of the process of the court, on the ground that it is statute-barred. Then the plaintiff and the court know that the Statute of Limitations will be pleaded; the defendant can, if necessary, file evidence to that effect; the plaintiff can file evidence of an acknowledgment or concealed fraud or any matter which may show the court that his claim is not vexatious or an abuse of process.’


Donaldson LJ, Stephenson LJ


[1983] 1 QB 398


Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act 1935


England and Wales


CitedWimpey (George) Co Ltd v British Overseas Airways Corporation HL 1954
A joint tortfeasor could escape liability in contribution proceedings if it had been unsuccessfully sued by the injured person in an action brought outside the relevant limitation period. Where a court has to decide between two competing cases, if . .
CitedHarvey v R G O’Dell Ltd 1958
. .

Cited by:

CitedAer Lingus v Gildacroft Ltd and Another CA 17-Jan-2006
The claimant had been found liable to pay damages for personal injury, and now sought contribution from the defendants. The defendants said that they were out of time since the contribution action had been commenced more than 2 years after the . .
CitedCollins v Brebner CA 19-Jun-1997
The defendant solicitor appealed refusal of an order to strike out the claim. The claimant alleged breach of trust. The claimant asserted a fraudulent witholding of information to suggest that any breach of trust had happened. The defendant said . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 31 July 2022; Ref: scu.238754