Timing really counts in litigation!
Posted: 17th April 2018
Tight time limits apply to almost all litigation and those who sit on their hands and delay consulting a solicitor take a serious risk that their valid claims will be dismissed without a hearing.
That very nearly happened in one case concerning the construction of a leaky school science block.
A building contractor that had been employed to construct the block by a local authority faced arbitration proceedings after the building was afflicted by water ingress. Those proceedings were in due course settled on terms that the contractor would carry out remedial works at its own cost.
The contractor subsequently issued contribution proceedings against the company that had designed the block, claiming over £200,000. The company, however, argued that the claim had been launched outside the two-year time limit that applies to such claims by virtue of Section 10 of the Limitation Act 1980. The issue hinged on whether the two-year period began to run when the extent of the remedial works was agreed in principle or when the settlement agreement was formally executed.
In ruling in the contractor’s favour, the High Court noted that negotiations leading up to the agreement were conducted on a subject to contract basis. The contractor and the local authority had proceeded on the understanding that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed and amendments were being made to the scope of the remedial works until shortly before the agreement was signed. Time began to run only when the agreement was finalised and, on that basis, the contractor’s claim had been brought narrowly within the time limit and could proceed to trial.