The Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court ruling in relation to when time starts to run in a negligence case for the purposes of the Statute of Limitations.

The plaintiff, a developer, alleged breach of contract and negligence by a consultant engineer and contractor in the construction of two houses in Galway.

The parties disputed the point in time from which the six-year statutory period for the Statute of Limitations, within which a claim was to be brought, began. The defendants argued it began in March 2004 when the foundations of the houses were laid. The plaintiffs claimed that the damage, an essential element in the tort of negligence, did not actually occur until late 2005 when cracks appeared in the houses and therefore time only started to run at that point.

The High Court agreed with the defendants that time began to run in 2004 and dismissed the claim, ruling that it was statute- barred. The Court of Appeal overturned the decision thereby reaffirming that for the tort of negligence to be actionable, damage must have actually occurred. That damage had only occurred when the cracks appeared and therefore the six-year statutory period within which a claim could be brought only started in 2005.