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(Don’t) wait ‘til the midnight hour…

In a typical claim in tort or breach of contract, the limitation period for issuing court proceedings is set out in the Limitation Act 1980, which states that an action can be brought “after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued."

But what would happen if the cause of action accrues at the stroke of midnight? In the recent case of Matthew and others v Sedman and others [2021] UKSC 19, the Supreme Court unanimously held that in "midnight deadline cases" (where the deadline for something expires at midnight), the day following expiry of the deadline should be included when calculating the limitation period.

So, for example, in this particular case the cause of action accrued at, or on the expiry of, the midnight hour at the end of 2 June 2011. The Defendant missed the deadline so the Claimant sued for negligence (amongst other things) on Monday 5 June 2017 (3 June 2017 being a Saturday). The question for the Court was whether the following day of 3 June 2011 counted towards the 6 year limitation period so that the last date for issuing proceedings would actually be 2 June 2017.  It was held that the cause of action accrued at the beginning of 3 June 2011, so any action should be brought by 2 June 2017, being 6 years from that date. Accordingly, the claim was found to be statute barred.

This decision is very useful for practitioners as it clears up any confusion over cases where the time for doing something expires at the end of a day. In such cases, the following day must be included in your calculations when working out when the absolute limit is to issue court proceedings.

At Mills Selig, we like to make sure that clients have enough wiggle room so as not to risk missing limitation, but it is a helpful reminder of what a difference a day can make.

Editorial prepared by: Rebecca Logan, Solicitor, Mills Selig

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