Under the Limitations Act 1980 the statute of limitations for any action is 6 years from the date in which the event occurred. However, for actions in negligence where the claimant was not aware of the negligence the time limit can be extended. Section 14A (4)(b) of the Limitations Act 1980 allows for actions to be taken within 3 years from the date in which the plaintiff was aware of the negligence. This allows actions for negligence to be taken to court far outside the original 6 year limitation period.
Since the introduction of the Act in 1980 the court has interpreted the requirement of the date of knowledge by looking at what it means to have ‘knowledge
The case of Haward v Fawcetts (A Firm)  UKHL 9 held that a claimant has ‘knowledge’ when he has sufficient information to deem it reasonable to commence further investigations. This means that the court will look to all the circumstances of the case before deciding when knowledge occurred. This determination is very fact specific and will vary from case to case. This makes it difficult to give any precise guidance on when knowledge occurs.
Further clarification of the test for knowledge was expressed by the court in the case of Nobu Su v Clarksons Platou Futures Ltd and Vassilis Karakoulakis  EWCA Civ 1115. This case found that the knowledge required relates to knowledge of 2 specific matters:
- There need to be knowledge of facts of sufficient seriousness that would lead the reasonable person to justify the commencement of proceedings.
- Knowledge that the damage suffered was the result of the negligence complained of.
This suggests there must be strong knowledge of the negligence as well as knowledge that the claimant was damaged by the negligence before the 3 years limitation period begins to run. This change in the law opened up the scope for bringing a negligence claim and has allowed claims to be brought well outside the normal 6 year limitation period.
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