Limitation in Professional Negligence Claims

If you believe you have a negligence claim against a solicitor, barrister, architect, surveyor, accountant, or other professional advisers our advice is to act immediately; once your claim is outside of the limitation period, that’s it, it’s gone for good.

The consequence of being time-barred has recently been emphasised in the High Court decision of Halsall and others v Champion Consulting Ltd and others [2017] EWHC 1079 (QB) in relation to a negligent tax adviser. Despite negligence being found, the claim ultimately failed as it had been brought too late.

Background Facts

Halsall involved a claim against a tax advisor firm.

In 2003 the Claimants were introduced to two tax schemes by the advisor firm. In 2011, the HM Revenue and Customs wrote to the Claimants questioning the lawfulness of the tax schemes. Both tax schemes subsequently failed.

In 2015 the Claimants brought proceedings against the advisor firm for negligent advice and sought compensation for the loss and damage they had suffered as a result.

At trial the Judge found that the advisor firm had been negligent. However, more importantly, the Judge also found that the claim was brought too late. This was fatal to the claim.

The Limitation Period in Negligence Claims

A claim in negligence must be brought within six years from the date that the damage is suffered.

As is the nature of negligence claims, it is usual for many years to pass before the claiming party becomes aware of their advisor’s negligence. In such a case, the limitation period may be extended to three years from the date when the claimant knows or ought to have known of a claim against the advisor.  This is more commonly known as the ‘date of knowledge’.

Any extended period is subject to a hard longstop time limit of 15 years from the date of negligence.

Establishing the limitation period is often not a straightforward matter. It may not be clear when the damage had been suffered or when a claiming party had the relevant knowledge of a claim. It is therefore important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

On the Halsall case above, the Claimants did not issue proceedings until 2015. This was over six years from the date of investigating the tax schemes in 2003. Neither could the Claimants rely upon the three-year extension from the date of knowledge due to the letter from HM Revenue and Customs in 2011. The Claimants lost by simply being too late.

Do I Have a Negligence Claim?

Wannops LLP can assist. We can review your paperwork and advise whether you have a negligence claim and whether you are still in time.

There are three main ingredients to prove in all negligence claims. Firstly, we must establish a duty of care between you and your advisor. Next, we must prove that the advisor breached that duty of care. Finally, we must show that the breach has caused you a loss.

If you fall within the limitation period and satisfy the above points then you almost certainly have a claim worth investigating further. Unfortunately, limitation is an all too frequent issue so don’t lose your right to bring a claim, speak to us today.

Mark Robertson has extensive experience of running professional negligence claims for individuals and businesses.

For further enquiries please contact Mark at our Chichester office on 01243 778 844

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