30 DEC 2014
Chief Constable of Hampshire v Southampton City Council  EWCA Civ 1541
Contribution Claim – Limitation Period for Contribution Claim
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30 October 2014
Court of Appeal: Jackson LJ, Patten LJ and Lewison LJ
The claimant’s appeal against a decision that its claim against defendant under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 was statute barred.
An employee of the current claimant, a Mr Chegwidden, had brought a claim for personal injury damages against them after he developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos. That claim settled on 4 November 2010 by Mr Chegwidden accepting a Part 36 offer of £71,351.20 damages plus costs to be assessed if not agreed. A consent order recorded the settlement on 15 December 2010 and on 15 September 2011 a consent order was made in regard to Mr Chegwidden’s costs.
On 3 December 2010 the claimant commenced contributions proceedings against the defendant under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 (‘the 1978 Act’) on the grounds that the defendant had owned the building in which Mr Chegwidden worked. The defendant denied all allegations of negligence and stated that the contribution claim was statute barred as it had been made after the two year limitation period. A preliminary issue trial took place on 1 October 2013 and the District Judge held that the contribution claim was statute barred and dismissed the action. The claimant appealed on the basis that the consent order was dated 15 December 2010 and an agreement on costs in any event was reached on a later date, that the judge at first instance erred in finding that s 10(4) of the 1978 Act applied instead of s 10(3).
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On the first ground of appeal, the Court of Appeal held that neither the consent order in regards to damages nor costs constituted a judgment under section 10(3) of the 1978 Act. Therefore section 10(4) of the 1978 Act would apply and the relevant date would be the earliest date on which the amount to be paid was agreed.
On the second ground of appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the wording of s 10(4) of the 1978 Act, being ‘payment … in compensation for that damage’, is a reference to damages only, despite the fact that costs could be the subject of a contribution claim. The relevant date was therefore 4 November 2010, the claimant had issued its contribution proceedings more than 2 years after the relevant date and the contribution claim was statute barred.
This case serves as a reminder to all litigators to ensure that they are issuing proceedings within the relevant limitation date.
Adam Dyl and Jodee Mayer, Anthony Gold