The court’s power to extend the time limit—section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980
The court’s power to extend the time limit—section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980

The following PI & Clinical Negligence guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The court’s power to extend the time limit—section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980
  • The power to disapply the primary limitation period
  • The equitable test
  • The correct approach to section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980
  • Physical/sexual abuse cases
  • Practical points

The Limitation Act 1980 is referred to as LA 1980.

The power to disapply the primary limitation period

When dealing with personal injury claims that fall within LA 1980, s 11, the court has a discretion to disapply the primary limitation period even though a claim has not been brought in time (ie to allow the claim to continue even though more than three years elapsed before it was brought).

This discretion applies to all personal injury claims in negligence, nuisance and breach of duty. It also applies to claims in respect of defective products brought under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (but those are subject to a further long-stop limitation period of ten years that cannot be set aside).

The court should set limitation aside and let a claim proceed where it would be equitable to do so.

The equitable test

In considering whether it would in fact be equitable to allow an action to proceed, the court is obliged (under LA 1980, s 33) to balance the degree to which both the claimant and defendant could be prejudiced by an extension of time. In a case where section 33 arises, the broad merits test will be a prominent consideration. LA 1980, s 33 also provides that the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, and