House Of Lords Departs From Previous Decision In Stubbings v Webb

The House of Lords has overturned its own previous decision in

the case of Stubbings v Webb [1993] AC 498 in which the House had

unanimously decided that s11 of the Limitation Act 1980 did not

apply to acts of deliberate assault (including acts of indecent

assault), and allowed the appeals in the cases of A v Hoare, X and

Another v Wandsworth London Borough Council, C v Middlesborough

Council, H v Suffolk County Council, Young v Catholic Care (Diocese

of Leeds) and Another.

All the appeals raised questions as to whether claims for sexual

assaults and abuse were barred by the Limitation Act 1980

("the Act"). The main issue was whether s2 (6 year

limitation period) or s11 (3 year limitation period extendable at

the court's discretion under s33) of the Act applied. In all

cases, proceedings were issued more than 6 years after the primary

limitation period and were statue-barred.

The lead claim of Mrs A v Hoare concerned a retired teacher who

brought a claim against her attacker 19 years after the attack

occurred. The Defendant Mr Hoare, won £7 million on the

lottery in 2004 whilst serving a custodial sentence. Previously Mr

Hoare had not been worth suing. Upon learning of these

circumstances, Mrs A brought a claim against Mr Hoare but was

unsuccessful as her claim was made outside the limitation


Following the landmark decision on 30.1.2008, Mrs A and others

in similar situations may have an opportunity to pursue claims for

damages many years after their abuse.


Under s2 of the Limitation Act 1980 ("the Act") the

limitation period for bringing an action in contract or tort is 6

years. The court has no discretion to extend the limitation


In actions for damages for negligence, nuisance or breach of

duty where the damages are in respect of personal injuries, under

s11 of the Act the limitation period is 3 years from the date on

which the cause of action arose or the date of knowledge (if later)

as defined in s14. Where a claim falls under s11, s33 gives the

court a discretion, to extend the limitation period when it appears

equitable to do so.

In Stubbings, the House of Lords held that s11 was not

applicable to cases of deliberate assault and an action for an

intentional trespass to the person is not an action for negligence,

nuisance or breach of duty. Such cases therefore fell under s2 and

s33 did not apply.


In the above cases the Claimants argued either that the date of

knowledge was less than 3 years before...

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