Limitation at Midnight

Limitation at Midnight

When a cause of action accrues during the course of a day, that day is disregarded for limitation purposes and the clock is said to start ticking from the start of the following day. What happens though if a cause of action is completely constituted from the very first moment of a particular day? Should that day still be excluded when calculating the applicable limitation period?

This is the question the High Court considered in Matthew & Ors v Sedman & Ors [2017] EWHC 3527 (Ch).  The practical implications of the decision are that where a cause of action arises through the happening of a physical event, it will be complete at a point during the day and the well-known rule will apply ie. that day will be excluded for limitation purposes. Where a cause of action arises through a failure to do something by a particular date, however, the failure is irremediable and the cause of action will be complete from the moment the last day on which the step could have been taken ends (ie from the stroke of midnight).

Practitioners should be aware that (whether the claim is in negligence, contract or breach of trust), the limitation clock will start ticking at the very moment the cause of action is complete in such circumstances, and the claimant will not have the benefit of an additional day for the purposes of calculating the limitation period.

Further guidance

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The link to the full analysis is available here: High Court considers limitation when cause of action accrues at midnight (Matthew v Sedman)


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