In all personal injury claims i.e. clinical negligence and in product liability claims, the limitation period under the Limitation Act 1980 runs from either the date of significant injury, alleged negligent act or from the patient’s date of knowledge, if this was later. Date of knowledge is the date that the patient reasonably became aware that alleged negligence had occurred. This is usually a three year timeframe. If this three year timeframe expires before court proceedings are issued, then it is very likely you will be prevented from pursuing a claim.
However, in product liability matters, there is also a further overriding timeframe which must be considered. Product liability means proceeding against the product manufacturer under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA) arguing the product is defective. A defective product is defined as one that does not produce the level of safety persons generally are entitled to expect. In theory at least, this should avoid the need to prove fault or negligence on the part of the manufacturer. This is known as the 10 year “longstop” limitation period.
This limitation period runs for 10 years from the date of supply. Supply is not as you may think, the date that you receive the product at the time of operation, but it is the date that the product leaves the control of the manufacturer and is put into circulation. In many cases there is quite a shelf life for these products which means that the date of supply might be many months before the date of operation. If the date of supply is more than ten years ago your claim is statute barred. There is no right of appeal in relation to extending this date. It is always better to err on the side of caution and use the date of product manufacture until the manufacturer has confirmed the actual date of supply. This is something which must always be considered in any product liability claim.
Once this 10 year period expires, it extinguishes any pre-existing product liability claim, even if there is a later date of knowledge.
If this three year period expires before court proceedings have been issued, then it is very likely you will be prevented from proceeding further with a claim.
Limitation dates for both product liability and clinical negligence cases are therefore extremely important.
In view of the potential difficulties with limitation, we strongly advise that all women contact solicitors at their earliest opportunity.
Please be aware that if there are six months or less remaining on the limitation period, then it may be difficult for solicitors to investigate a potential claim. Most solicitors will require at least six months remaining in relation to limitation, in order to fully investigate a claim before Court proceedings are issued. If you think this this may apply to you, we strongly advise you seek legal advice at your earliest opportunity and not to wait for solicitors to contact you.