As a new year dawns, one becomes acutely aware of Time.
When looking through another Precedent H, I started to wonder how much additional time the costs budgets regime had added to litigation. For others, time is money. Indeed, research has shown that costs budgets have increased litigation costs significantly. This is surely not what the Jackson reforms were meant to engender. As with any new legal development, however, costs budgets have formed part of the attack arsenal which a diligent lawyer can employ during a case so time really does need to be spent on them.
On another cheery note, it has also been suggested that professional negligence claims against solicitors have trebled over recent years. Part of this has been put down to limitation periods approaching expiry on many of the property/lender claims arising out of the recession. In any event, it reminds us – as another year passes – that limitation perennially remains a matter that we must always be mindful of.
One aspect of limitation that is frequently misunderstood concerns s.32 of the 1980 Act, a provision that seems to be cited more regularly nowadays and led to a number of cases in the Court of Appeal during 2014 alone. S.32 can be used to argue that a professional deliberately concealed a material fact from a potential claimant, thereby causing the primary limitation period to expire. What must be remembered is that for a claimant to succeed he/she must prove that they could not have discovered said fact with reasonable diligence. They must further prove that said fact is essential for them to plead their cause of action. Moreover, they must prove that the alleged tortfeasor deliberately concealed the fact. These are particularly high hurdles for an applicant/claimant.
Time will tell if this year sees a change to any of the above issues, or if it will be a case of plus ça change…