Aer Lingus v. Gildacroft Ltd. and Sentinel Lifts Ltd.

Date: August 20, 2007

Expertise: Personal Injury

The Court of Appeal today handed down judgment in this case which concerned whether the 2 year limitation period in respect of contribution proceedings runs from the date of a judgment for damages to be assessed or from the later date when judgment on quantum as well as liability is given.

The answer to the question turns upon the correct interpretation of section 10 of the Limitation Act 1980.  This section provides the special time limit for claiming contribution. Sub-section 3 provides that where a judgment in civil proceedings (or an award on arbitration) is made then “the relevant date will be the date upon which the judgment is given, or the date of the award”.  If there is no judgment or agreement then section 10(4) provides that the relevant date is the earliest date on which the person seeking contribution agrees the amount to be paid to discharge the liability in respect of which the contribution is sought.

Lord Justice Rix, with whom the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Moore-Bick expressed agreement, reviewed the authorities and concluded that there was no clear authority either way on the point.  However past obiter from the Court of Appeal and House of Lords dealing with predecessor legislation had favoured the interpretation that an assessment of quantum was required.

Lord Justice Rix accepted the appellant’s submissions (which had been rejected by the Judge below, Mr Justice Simon) that the clear reference in sub-section 10(4) to agreeing the amount of payment would give rise to a surprising contrast with sub-section 10(3) if in cases of judgment no assessment of quantum was required.  Furthermore a subscript to sub-section 10(3) providing that no account is taken of an appellate judgment varying an award below would be wholly unnecessary if the respondent’s contentions were correct.

He accordingly allowed the appeal of Aer Lingus and held that their claim for contribution, which had been made within 2 years of assessment of quantum but more than 2 years from a judgment for damages to be assessed, was not statute barred and could proceed.
Michael Pooles QC of Hailsham Chambers leading Martin Porter of 2 Temple Gardens, instructed by Duncan Rutter of Beachcroft Wansbroughs, represented the appellant, Aer Lingus.