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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

15 AUG 2014

David T Morrison and Co Ltd (t/a Gael Home Interiors) v ICL Plastics Ltd  [2014] UKSC 48

David T Morrison and Co Ltd (t/a Gael Home Interiors) v ICL Plastics Ltd  [2014] UKSC 48
Limitation – Date of Knowledge – Awareness of Loss – Scotland

Supreme Court
30 July 2014
 Lord Neuberger (President), Lord Sumption JSC, Lord Reed JSC, Lord Toulson JSC, Lord Hodge JSC


 This case concerns the limitation period that applies under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act (1973). The defendant (appellant) successfully appealed the decision of the Inner Court which had allowed the claimant’s claim out of time. The claimant had argued that he was not out of time because the appropriate period ran from the date he knew that his loss was caused and as a result of the defendant’s negligence. By majority decision the Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying mere knowledge that the damage might possibly have been caused by negligence of another was enough. However in this case that was much earlier and the claim was out of time.


 Under the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act (1973) a claimant has 5 years from the date of loss to bring his or her claim for damages. Section 11(3) of the Act creates an exception if the claimant was not aware that the loss arose from the negligence of another and in those circumstances the appropriate period runs from the date of that knowledge.

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The claim was dismissed at first instance for being out of time. On appeal the court said that the claim could proceed as knowledge needed to include not only that damage had been sustained but that the damage was as a result of negligence. The defendant appealed and was successful. By majority decision, the Supreme Court held that awareness need include the claimant having actual or constructive awareness both that he suffered more than minimal loss and of the actions that caused that loss. However, awareness was not certainty and a mere knowledge that it may have been possible for the loss to have occurred through negligence was enough. In the present case this was much earlier and the time limited started then. By the time proceedings were issued, they were out of time and the claim was statute-barred.

 Careful not to open the floodgates, the Supreme Court defined the test of knowledge so as to include even when the claimant has the slightest inclination that his loss has been caused through another’s negligence. He or she must therefore issue within 5 years of this date or risk the claim being time-barred.