In Collins v All Metal Magic, an applicant sought an extension of a limitation period for a personal injury claim pursuant to section 31 of the Limitations of Actions Act 1974. The applicant was employed by All Metal Magic from June 2010. She attended her treating general practitioner in June 2013, reporting intermittent tingling in the fingers. In March 2015, she was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome after complaining she had been suffering symptoms for a substantial period before the diagnosis.

The Court dismissed the application on the basis that there was no causal link between the injury and the work activity nor evidence that the nature of the work could cause bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.

Nonetheless, the Court also explored whether the applicant satisfied section 31(2) of the Act that there was a material fact of a decisive character relating to the right of action which was belatedly within the means of knowledge of the applicant. The Court held the material fact was a significant increase in pain, pins and needles and numbness in the fingers and the subsequent diagnosis of the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome on 11 March 2015. However, pursuant to section 30 of the Act, the Court held the material fact was within the means of knowledge of the applicant much earlier and the applicant failed to take all reasonable steps to find out the fact at that time. The doctor’s records in June 2013 note complaints of tingling in the applicant’s fingers, demonstrating she knew that she was affected by physical complaints which she believed were caused by work duties well before March 2015. Despite suffering symptoms in the intervening period between June 2013 to March 2015, inexplicitly the plaintiff failed to take any steps to determine the true cause of her symptoms.

Implications for Insurers

Claimants will often rely on their lack of understanding of medical issues to seek an extension of the limitation period. However, pleading ignorance without explaining why more effort was not made to overcome this will fall short.

Comprehensive medical records from treating general practitioners and specialists can provide the crucial evidence to defeat an application to extend the limitation period. Thorough analysis of post-accident medical records can demonstrate to the Court the decisive material fact was within the means of knowledge of an applicant before the last year of the limitation period, effectively blocking any extension.