Statute Of Limitations In Property Damage Claims: The Implications

The question of when damage was capable of being discovered will now become the new battleground in property damage claims where there is a possible Statute of Limitations defence.

The Irish Supreme Court unanimously held recently that the key date for the Statute of Limitations when bringing a claim in tort/negligence for property damage is the date of the manifestation of damage from defective work, rather than the date of the defective work itself.

The Court of Appeal previously overturned the decision of the High Court in Brandley and WJB Developments Limited-v-Hubert Dean T/A Hubert Dean & Associates and John Lohan T/A John Lohan Ground Works and Tractors (High Court 2010/10994P and Appeal 2015/245).


The case concerned two houses in Co Galway which were part of a small terrace of three houses that were constructed on one common raft foundation. The first defendant was the project engineer who issued certificates of compliance. The second defendant was the grounds work contractor whose work included the foundations of the houses.

As a general rule, proceedings for negligence must be commenced within six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued. In this case, the proceedings were commenced over six years after both the laying of the foundations and the engineer's certification.

However, the proceedings were commenced less than six years from the date upon which the damage became apparent to the plaintiffs.

Below is a summary of the key dates:

March 2004: The foundations of the houses were completed; September 2004: The engineer issued his Certificates of Compliance; February 2005: The houses were completed; December 2005: The plaintiffs noticed cracks in the houses; November 2010: The plaintiffs issued proceedings against the engineer and the contractor. The parties agreed that the test for when the cause of action accrued was not one based on discoverability but rather the question to be answered was "when did the plaintiffs suffer damage by reason of the negligence of the defendants".

The nub of the plaintiffs' case was that although the negligent installation of the foundations and the negligent certification were outside the six year time limit, the damage that came about as a result was within that period.

High Court

Justice Kearns held on April 16, 2015, that the plaintiffs' claim was statute barred. The learned judge cited the judgment in Murphy-v-McInerney Construction Limited (2008) IEHC 323 which...

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