Limitation—professional negligence claims

The following Dispute Resolution practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Limitation—professional negligence claims
  • Professionals owe duties to their clients in both contract and tort
  • Date of accrual in contract
  • Date of accrual in tort
  • Omissions
  • Further or supplemental advice
  • Latent damage
  • Fraud and deliberate concealment
  • Extending the running of time by agreement between the parties

Limitation—professional negligence claims

This Practice Note looks at the limitation period for professional negligence (prof neg) claims and explains how to determine the date of accrual in respect of claims in both contract and in tort.

For more background information on limitation, see: Limitation—overview and Practice Notes:

  1. Limitation Act 1980—general application

  2. Limitation—contract claims

  3. Limitation—tort claims

For general guidance on professional negligence claims, see also: Professional negligence claims—overview.

Professionals owe duties to their clients in both contract and tort

Where a person assumes responsibility to perform professional services for someone who relies on those services, a duty in tort to exercise reasonable skill and care can arise, even if the services are performed under a contract between those parties (Henderson v Merrett, differing from Tai Hing v Liu Chong Hing).

Under the Limitation Act 1980 (LA 1980), the limitation period for both contract and tort claims is six years but, time starts to run:

  1. in contract—from the date of breach

  2. in negligence—from the occurrence of damage

Damage is capable of occurring later than breach, with the effect that tort claims in negligence can sometimes provide a longer lasting limitation period than a corresponding claim in contract.

However, in Axa v Darby Solicitors, Longmore LJ said:

‘In a case where, on any view, the natural cause of action is for breach of contract, the courts should not favour a much later date of accrual for

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