Limitation is the legally defined time period in which (civil) court actions must be brought which varies depending on the nature of the claim.


Limitation periods are provided for in limitation legislation (and/or in limitation related statutory provisions) or the equivalent in different countries. One example from Trinidad & Tobago, is the Limitation of Certain of Actions Act, Chap 7:09.


To assess limitation, it is important to ascertain the date from which time starts to run in the particular claim.  For example in claims for money lent, it is critical to determine the date from which time starts to run by interpreting the loan agreement or equivalent document(s) which set out the lending terms.


Despite the fact that the Court has the power to override limitation periods based on its consideration of certain factors (see Section 9, Limitation of Certain Actions Act, Trinidad & Tobago), it is important to properly ascertain when a cause of action accrues, since a limitation defence is one of the primary defences that a Defendant can mount against a claim.


“In a claim for money lent, it is a matter of construction of the contract to determine the date from which time will run.

“If a time is stipulated for repayment, the limitation period will run from that time; if the agreement provides that the occurrence or non-occurrence of a particular event is to trigger the obligation to repay, time will run from the date of that occurrence or non-occurrence.”

“Where the contract, either expressly or by implication, provides that a demand by the creditor is a necessary prerequisite to the right to repayment, time will not start to run until such a demand is made.”

See Volume 68 Halsbury’s Laws of England, 5th edition, para 960.

Simple contracts include all contracts which are not contracts of record or contracts made under seal. See Civil Court Practice 2015 (The Green Book) Part III.

The cause of action accrues upon occurrence of the relevant breach and not the time of damage – Gibbs v Guild (1881) 8 QBD 296.


Where the parties remain in a contractual relationship and the breach consists of a failure to perform a contractual undertaking, time may not run until the date when the relevant obligation becomes impossible to perform – Midland Bank Trust Co Ltd v Hett, Stubbs and Kemp [1979] Ch 384, [1978] 3 All ER 571.


Where anticipatory breach is accepted by an innocent party, then time will run from the date of such acceptance – Hochster v de la Tour (1853) 2 E & B 678.

But where the innocent party elects to wait for the time of performance then – so long as he remains ready, willing and able to perform his obligations under the contract – then time will run from the time when the other party’s performance was due, but was not provided, under the contract – Civil Court Practice 2015 (The Green Book) Part III.


Further information on this topic can be  found: