Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) v Carmarthenshire County Council

Citation: EWHC 2991 (TCC) (limitation and acknowledgment of a debt)

Nature of case:
Dwr Cymru claimed against Carmarthenshire CC, for damage caused to a sewer, in 1995, by contractors working for Carmarthenshire CC’s predecessor as local authority.  In 2000 Carmarthenshire had written to Dwr Cymru admitting liability, but in 2002 denied liability on the basis that, more than 6 years having elapsed since the tort was committed, the claim was statute barred.  Dwr Cymru argued that under the Limitation Act 1980 s.29(5)(a), which it was argued would apply so long as the claim was liquidated, Carmarthenshire had acknowledged liability, and so the limitation period ran from the date of the acknowledgement in 2000.

Jackson J, giving judgment for the local authority, held that claims in tort for damages fell outside the ambit of s.29(5)(a); the doctrine of acknowledgment had historically applied only to claims in contract, and if parliament had intended to extend its scope to tortious claims, it would have done so expressly.  In any event, the claim was non-pecuniary, there being a number of issues relating to quantum that were outstanding, and so s.29(5)(a) did not apply.

Link to Judgment

Counsel

Simon Hughes QC

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