Calculating 3-years

A narrow point that occasionally arises is how ‘3-years’ is calculated for the purposes of limitation. In accident cases or in disease cases, for example, where a diagnosis is given on a known date, there will be a precise date when the cause of action accrues and so the limitation clock starts to run.

When is a claim ‘brought’

As a preliminary point, it should be remembered that the date at which the claim is ‘brought’ for the Limitation Act 1980 is not the date of issue, but the date received at court. In Barnes v St Helens MBC [2007] 1 W.L.R. 879 it was confirmed that what is now incorporated into the Civil Procedure Rules within Practice Direction 7A is correct:

5.1 Proceedings are started when the court issues a claim form at the request of the claimant (see rule 7.2) but where the claim form as issued was received in the court office on a date earlier than the date on which it was issued by the court, the claim is ‘brought’ for the purposes of the Limitation Act 1980 and any other relevant statute on that earlier date.”

Which dates are included and which are excluded from the calculation?

However, say an accident were to occur on today’s date (14/01/2021) when does the Claim Form need to be received at court? Depending on which days are included in or excluded from the 3-year period – it could seemingly be 13/01/2024, 14/01/2024 or 15/01/2024.

This question has, helpfully, been answered in the case of Marren v Dawson Bentley [1961] 2 Q.B. 135.

In Marren it had been argued that the claim was out of time. The claim was issued on November 8 1957, following an accident which occurred on November 8 1954. It was argued by the defendant that the claim should have been brought no later than November 7 1957.

It should be pointed out that this decision was with respect to the Limitation Act 1939. However, the reasoning provided in the Judgment was to provide consistency between a variety of civil and criminal limitation periods. There appears to be no reason why the application of the 1980 Act should be different.

It was concluded that the day the cause of action accrues is excluded from the calculation. However, the day the claim is brought is included. The claim was in time, though a day later would not have been.

Marren (a High Court decision) was approved in the Court of Appeal in Kaur v S Russell & Sons [1972] 2 W.L.R. 147.


So, the answer to the question posed above is…14/01/2024.

However, any claimant solicitor is well advised to send to court well in advance of this. Reliance on Marren v Dawson Bentley should be something of a last resort…

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