Know your limitations

Posted: 15th November 2011

The Court of Appeal recently had to consider a claim in which a surveyor’s delay in rendering a bill proved fatal to its collection.

The surveyor had done work for a client in 1998 and the cost was toconstruction be covered by insurance. The bill was presented to the insurers (not the client) in 2001.
The insurers disputed the size of the bill and demanded that further details be sent to them. The surveyor suffered from ill health and, as a result, did not provide the further particulars sought until 2007. The insurers still did not pay.
The surveyor began legal action for payment in 2008, claiming against the estate of the client, who had died in the intervening period.
The Court decided that the surveyor could not claim, becausehe was ‘out of time’. Because he had the right to raise an invoice at any point (and thus did not have to finalise matters with the insurer before raising his bill), the Court ruled that he could have raised the invoice in 1999. As more than six years had passed, he could not enforce payment of his invoice.
Statutory limitation periods are often but not always six years, sometimes more. For personal injury claims the period is usually 3 years but sometimes as little as a year. Many employment claims are subject to a limitation period of only 3 months!
Don't delay.