Q&As

If a claim for defamation or malicious falsehood is brought outside of the normal time limit due to circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19), can a claimant rely on section 32A of the Limitation Act 1980 to persuade the court to disapply that time limit?

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Produced in partnership with Richard Colbey of Lamb Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 26/03/2020

The following TMT Q&A Produced in partnership with Richard Colbey of Lamb Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • If a claim for defamation or malicious falsehood is brought outside of the normal time limit due to circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19), can a claimant rely on section 32A of the Limitation Act 1980 to persuade the court to disapply that time limit?

The courts are likely to be cautious in permitting extensions related to coronavirus (COVID-19) in defamation cases, and it would be very risky to rely on the discretion under section 32A of the Limitation Act 1980 (LA 1980) to delay issuing a claim now.

A general point about LA 1980 is that it is primary legislation, and there does not appear to be any provision in the coronavirus Bill (as it is at the time of writing) to suspend its effect. Should court offices be completely closed, Pritam Kaur v S Russell and Sons Ltd may apply so that actions issued on, or received before, the first day the offices open would be in time.

If there is a prospective action where limitation is about to expire, the prudent course may issue the claim, unless the prospective defendant can be persuaded to enter into an effective standstill agreement. Where there is genuine uncertainty over the amount to be claimed, that should not prevent a claim with a low estimate being used. That is not generally regarded as an abuse of process, and the amount can usually be

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