Concealment stops time-bar running

LAW REPORT: 9 MAY 1995

Sheldon and others v RHM Outhwaite (Underwriting Agencies) Ltd and others.

House of Lords (Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Mustill, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead).

4 May 1995.

The deliberate concealment of a cause of action which occurred after accrual of the cause of action postponed the running of the limitation period for the action within section 32(1)(b) of the Limitation Act 1980.

The House of Lords (Lord Mustill and Lord Lloyd dissenting) allowed an appeal by the plaintiffs and restored Mr Justice Saville's preliminary ruling that the plaintiffs could rely on section 32(1)(b) of the Limitation Act 1980 to overcome a statutory time bar.

Section 32(1)(b) of the Limitation Act 1980 provides: "where ... any fact relevant to the plaintiff's right of action has been deliberately concealed from him by the defendant ... the period of limitation shall not begin to run until the plaintiff has discovered the fraud, concealment ..." The plaintiffs, Lloyd's names, issued a writ in April 1992 against the defendants relating to acts done in 1982.

The plaintiffs claimed that the action was not defeated by the six-year limitation period prescribed by the 1980 Act as they could show acts of deliberate concealment which occurred after 1982 and which prevented the limitation period from running within section 32(1)(b).

The defendants argued that the deliberate concealment could not operate to postpone the running of a limitation period which had already begun and the deliberate concealment had to occur at the outset when the cause of action would have accrued.

Sydney Kentridge QC, Barbara Dohmann QC and Thomas Beazley (Norton Rose) for the plaintiffs; Ian Hunter QC and Colin Edelman QC (Denton Hall) for the first defendant; Ian Hunter QC and Jeffrey Gruder (Oswald Hickson Collier) for the other defendants.

LORD KEITH said that the ordinary time limit of six years given in section 2 of the 1980 was in Part I of the Act was subject to Part II, which included section 32. It was clear that the time limit was excluded in the situation where the concealment did not take place until after the accrual of the cause of action. The objection that a concealment taking place more than six years after accrual of the cause of action would bring section 32(1) into play was not realistic. It was not conceivable that a potential defendant would set out to conceal facts relevant to a cause of action when more than six years had elapsed since its accrual.

LORD BROWN-WILKINSON said that section 32 was not ambiguous. On the plain meaning of the words any deliberate concealment of relevant facts fell within section 32(1)(b) with the consequence that time did not start to run until the concealment was discovered. The onus lay on the defendants to show a compelling reason to limit the generality of the words used. Far from there being any such compelling reason, the defendants' construction would lead to an unfair result that the defendants would be entitled to benefit from their own alleged unconscionable behaviour by concealing the facts relevant to the plaintiffs' cause of action.

LORD NICHOLLS said that a distinction between initial concealment and subsequent concealment lacked all rhyme and reason. If initial concealment should stop time running, so equally should subsequent concealment. It was also absurd that in the case of subsequent concealment, the clock was turned back to zero even if the defendant had already acquired a limitation defence before the concealment took place. Forced to choose between two unattractive alternatives, the views of Lord Keith and Lord Browne-Wilkinson were preferred.

LORD LLOYD, dissenting, said if Parliament had intended to cover subsequent concealment, there were obvious ways in which it could have been done. Looking at the words of section 32(1)(b), it seemed clear that Parliament did not have subsequent concealment in mind.

LORD MUSTILL, dissenting, agreed with Lord Lloyd.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister

Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: MS Dynamics NAV...

Technical / Engineering Manager - West Yorkshire - £50k+

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The company ...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS Dynamics N...

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star