NEGLIGENCE/SEXUAL ABUSE: A v Hoare & Others [2008] UKHL 6

04 FEB 2008

(House of Lords; Lord Hoffmann, Lord Walker of Gestinghope, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Carswell and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood; 30 January 2008)

Overruling Stubbings v Webb [1993] AC 498, which had created anomalies, the Lords held that Limitation Act 1975, s 11 did apply to a case of deliberate assault, including acts of indecent assault; therefore, in personal injury claims for damages arising out of sexual assaults and sexual abuse, the relevant limitation period was 3 years from the date of knowledge, with a judicial discretion to extend that period when it appeared that it would be equitable to do so. The appeal also raised the meaning of 'significant' injury in s 14(2), for the purposes of identifying the date of knowledge. The test in s 14(2) was an entirely impersonal standard; the question was not whether the claimant himself would have considered the injury sufficiently serious to justify proceedings, but whether the claimant would 'reasonably' have done so. The effect of the claimant's injuries upon what he could reasonably have been expected to do was irrelevant; the test was external to the claimant. The question whether the actual claimant, taking into account his psychological state in consequence of the injury, could reasonably have been expected to institute proceedings, was taken into account by the court when considering whether to exercise the discretion to extend the limitation period under s 33 of the Act.

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