Extension of time of statutory limitation

Extension of time of statutory limitation

by George Coucounis

“The relevant application is submitted before the filing of the action or after limitation is pleaded

An actionable right is subject to time limits set out in the law, so when such a right or cause of action arises, it must be raised before the Court within the prescribed time of limitation and cannot forever hold. This is reasonable because as the time passes, the possibility for a fair trial is limited, evidence may be lost and other problems may be created and thus, justice may not be done. The setting of time limits for the exercise of a right or the fulfilling of an obligation has been held as constitutional and it does not violate the principle of equity before the law and justice. The Court in order to examine whether a claim has been time-barred, it must be raised by the defendant in his defence, otherwise it will not be examined. The time of limitation can be extended by the Court for another 2 years if this is considered reasonable and just under the circumstances. The time limit to raise a counterclaim is the time of the filing of the action provided the cause of the counterclaim arose from the same or substantially the same facts of the action, otherwise the counterclaim is considered as a separate action.

The way in which one can claim the extension of the time of limitation is through an originating summons before the filing of the action or an interim application after the defendant raises the issue of limitation in his defence, according to article 22 of the Law, L.66(I)/2012. In a judgment issued on 14.12.2021 by the District Court of Limassol in a relevant application, the Court held that the legislator under article 22 gave another opportunity to the intended plaintiff to be able, after leave of the Court, to file his action when the Court extends the limitation time of his actionable right. However, the criteria for the Court to exercise its discretion are strict and such applications should only be approved when this is reasonably necessary under the circumstances. Moreover, as mentioned in case law, time limits are admissible as long as they are not suffocating in order to infringe on a person’s right of access to the Court.

The case concerned an application filed by the intended plaintiffs to extend the time of limitation of their actionable right, but there was an objection by the intended defendants to whom the application was served. The Court emphasized that the time limit of 3 years provided in the Law for the filing of the intended action is not suffocating and aims at the effective administration of justice. The period of 3 years from the completion of the cause of the action can be extended for the purpose of effective administration of justice but under certain conditions. The lawfulness and reasonableness of the circumstances will first be examined in the light of the facts contained in the affidavits supporting the application.

The Court set out some criteria which are examined by the English Courts in such applications in order to determine the lawfulness and reasonableness of the request. In exercising its discretion, the Court shall take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, the duration and the reasons for the delay on the part of the intended plaintiff in promoting his actionable right, the extent to which, considering the delay, the evidence which may be adduced by the intended plaintiff or the intended defendant may be less convincing than if the action was instituted within the time limit, the plaintiff’s behaviour from the time the cause of the action was completed, whether the intended plaintiff acted timely and whether the delay affects the defendant’s defence. The Court is essentially called to balance the rights of the intended plaintiffs on the one hand and on the other hand the rights of the intended defendants.

In the present case, the Court concluded that it had not found from the affidavits supporting the application what kind of actions the plaintiffs had taken in order to promote their actionable right and why they had not filed the action on time. It is not clear when the intended plaintiffs approached a lawyer to handle their claim for compensation and they did not provide any evidence regarding their claims. The intended defendants alleged that the applicants’ actions and behaviour did not justify the approval of their application; if the application was approved, it would affect their rights and deprive them of raising the defence of limitation. Consequently, based on the aforesaid, the Court dismissed the application.