A contemporary judgment within the Technology & Building Court (TCC) has highlighted the importance of being aware about limitation periods, in particular, those that drop under fragment 14A of the Limitation Act 1980.
Judgment turned into as soon as handed down on Twenty fourth July within the case of Vinci Building UK Ltd v (1) Eastwood & Companions Ltd (2) Snowden Seamless Floors Ltd v GHW Consulting Engineers Ltd  EWHC 1899 (TCC).
In 2012, Vinci (the contractor) turned into as soon as engaged under an amended NEC3 contract. In 2013, Snowden turned into as soon as engaged by Vinci under a subcontract. The contract and subcontract were each executed as deeds. Snowden then engaged GHW (to raise out come by, provide and set up works) nonetheless crucially, no longer by map of a deed.
Works were accomplished in August 2013 nonetheless by September defects had regarded. Remediation attempts were made throughout 2014 and 2015.
In Can also 2018, Vinci wrote to Snowden regarding the defects and suggested a claim is also introduced in that appreciate. In 2020, Vinci turned into as soon as chanced on to be accountable for the defects following an adjudication introduced by the employer and as a result Vinci served a pre-circulation letter on Snowden, who in flip issued a preliminary gaze of claim against GHW. It turned into as soon as no longer unless February 2022 that Vinci commenced complaints. Snowden denied criminal responsibility whereas serving an additional claim on GHW attempting for an indemnity and/or contribution in appreciate of the claim from Vinci.
GHW denied criminal responsibility and raised the next limitation defences:
- the contractual claim turned into as soon as issued extra than six years after the motive leisurely circulation accrued; and
- in relation to the tortious claim, Snowden would win had recordsdata of the defects by April 2014 on the latest.
This is able to win rendered each claims time-barred, and GHW utilized to the TCC for abstract judgment on the premise that the claim had no right prospect of success.
It turned into as soon as agreed that the contractual claim turned into as soon as time-barred. Allotment 5 of the Limitation Act makes it sure that the criminal responsibility duration for breach of a contract is six years where the contract is no longer signed as a deed.
What turned into as soon as unclear turned into as soon as the applying of s14A of the Act in relation to the claim in tort. Long-established limitation periods for tortious claims are six years from the date on which the motive leisurely circulation accrued (s2 of the Act), nonetheless s14A extends this so that a claim would possibly perchance well perchance even be introduced up to a few years from the date of the ‘recordsdata required’ for bringing this form of claim (and the upright to bring the claim), if such recordsdata is originate air of that usual six-year duration. Such recordsdata need to encompass the cloth facts of the hurt and that the hurt turned into as soon as attributable (in entire or in share) to the defendant’s alleged negligence.
The court docket concluded that the parties were mindful that ‘sufficiently serious hurt’ had happened by April 2015, leaving the depend on whether Snowden would possibly perchance well even prevail on the facet of attribution.
Snowden argued that it easiest had the relevant recordsdata that the claim turned into as soon as attributable to GHW when it received Vinci’s letter in Can also 2018. This, mixed with two standstill agreements that had previously been entered into between Snowden and GMH, would mean the claim turned into as soon as no longer time-barred.
GHW, nonetheless, argued that Snowden had the mandatory recordsdata remarkable sooner than that, since there had been discussions about, and attempts to solve, the defects since 2013. GHW’s situation turned into as soon as that Snowden had real or optimistic recordsdata that the defects were attributable to GHW long sooner than the date of the letter, ensuing in Snowden’s case of attributability having no right prospect of success.
The court docket decided that it turned into as soon as no longer ready to shut whether Snowden turned into as soon as mindful or no longer, or must serene were mindful, that the relevant hurt turned into as soon as attributable to GHW’s alleged unsuitable come by, without conducting a mini trial of the documents (which would be opposite to the foundations of abstract judgment). The court docket therefore concluded that Snowden did win an real prospect of success in appreciate of the claim in tort and GHW’s application for abstract judgment turned into as soon as rejected.
This case serves as a reminder for a alternative of reasons. First, wherever a predominant contract is signed as a deed, any key subcontract or sub-subcontract must serene moreover be signed as a deed. Affirming a fixed duration of criminal responsibility across all parties – especially those with come by accountability – will allow fault to be precisely handed down the chain and right here is pretty as crucial for subcontractors as smartly as the predominant contractors and employer.
Second, listen on limitation periods from the outset, as they would well even attain around faster than you imagine. Allotment 14A would no longer provide a guaranteed extension of the limitation duration for negligence claims. The come by claims would possibly perchance well perchance even be handed down the chain, these must serene be put into enact as quickly as conceivable, and all relevant facts established, in account for to support a ways from any limitation periods expiring.
- Natalie Cane is a solicitor in Irwin Mitchell’s Building & Engineering Staff
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