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05 December 2018

Each Australian Court jurisdiction has rules determining if, when and by whom a claim can and cannot be brought and much will depend on individual circumstances.  The length of time in which a party is able to bring a claim is governed by legislation in each jurisdiction which sets out specific time frames and processes for the bringing of a claim. This time frame often commences at a point in time when a cause of action accrues, that is when a problem first occurs or, in some cases, when a problem is first detected.

The rationale behind imposing a limitation period is to provide a defendant with some sense of certainty that there will not be an indefinite period of exposure to claims against them. However, notwithstanding the prescriptive nature of the limitation legislation there are often exceptions to these rules.  These exceptions operate to ensure an element of fairness at law and may be reflective of the age or circumstance of a potential claimant, or some other circumstance that may come into play to enliven an exception.

The following is a brief outline of the limitation periods for each state and territory so far as these might be relevant to a construction design industry practice.  This schedule should be used as a guide only.  In many instances extensions of the limitation period or exemptions may apply.  It is important that you seek legal advice and/or check the relevant legislation to verify the limitation period applicable in any specific case.

 

New South Wales

Personal Injuries:

  • First to expire of:
  1. Three years from the date when the cause of action is discoverable; or
  2. Twelve years from the time when the act or omission causing injury or death occurred.

For Minors the running of the limitation period is not suspended until the minor reaches 18 years if the minor has a capable parent or guardian.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on a deed.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort (claims for contribution):

  • The first to expire of:
  1. Two years running from the date on which the cause of action of contribution first accrues to the plaintiff or person through whom the plaintiff claims; or
  2. Four years running from the date of the expiration of the limitation period for the principal cause of action.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years from the date the final occupation certificate issued, the date of last inspection, or the date of first occupation.

 

Victoria

Personal Injuries:

  • First to expire of:
  1. Twelve years from the date on which the act or omission which is alleged to have resulted in the death or injury of which the action is concerned; or
  2. Three years from the date when the cause of action is discoverable.

Extensions of time may be granted.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Fifteen years if the cause of action is founded on bond or other specialty.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years after the date of issue of the occupancy permit or the date of issue of the certificate of final inspection.

 

South Australia

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years from the date when the cause of action accrues.  However, if the injury remains latent for some time after its cause, the three years begins to run when the injury first comes to the person’s knowledge.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Fifteen years if cause of action founded on specialty

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended to up to three years in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort (claims for contribution):

  • Within the period which the plaintiff could have brought action against the person from whom contribution is sought or two years after final determination of damages payable, whichever is longer.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years from completion.

 

Queensland

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years from the date when the cause of action accrues.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on a specialty.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort (claims for contribution):

  • An action for contribution under the Law Reform Act 1995, section 6(c) shall not be brought after the expiration of the first of the following periods to expire:
  1. A period of limitation of two years running from the date on which the right of action for contribution first accrues to the plaintiff or to a person through whom the plaintiff claims; and
  2. A period of limitation of four years running from the date of the expiration of the period of limitation for the principal action.

 

Western Australia

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years from the date when the cause of action accrues.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on a deed.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date which the cause of action accrues.

 

Tasmania

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years commencing on the date of discoverability;
  • Twelve years commencing on the date of the act or omission which it is alleged resulted in the personal injury or death that is the subject of the action.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on specialty.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort (claims for contribution):

  • Two years – Action accrues when judgment given or award made or at date of agreement fixing an amount of liability.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years after the date of issue of the occupancy permit, the date of first occupation, two years after issue of the building permit, or the date on which the work is completed.

 

Northern Territory

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Contract:

  • Three years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on a deed.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Three years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort: (claims for contribution):

  • The first to expire of:
  1. Two years running from the date on which the cause of action of contribution first accrues to the plaintiff or person through whom the plaintiff claims; or
  2. Four years running from the date of the expiration of the limitation period for the principal cause of action.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years after the date of issue of the occupancy permit, or the date of first occupation after completion.

 

Australian Capital Territory

Personal Injuries:

  • Three years after the person first knows:
  1. They have suffered an injury; and
  2. The injury is related to someone else’s act or omission; or
  • Three years after the injury happened.

Contract:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
  • Twelve years if the cause of action is founded on a deed.

Defamation:

  • One year from the date of publication (period may be extended in certain circumstances).

Tort:

  • Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.

Tort: (claims for contribution):

  • The first to expire of:
  1. Two years running from the date on which the cause of action of contribution first accrues to the Plaintiff or person through whom the plaintiff claims; or
  2. Four years running from the date of the expiration of the limitation period for the principal cause of action.

Defective Building Work:

  • Ten years after the date certificate of completion given, the date of last inspection, or the date of first occupation.

 

Adele Monaco
National Claims Manager
Focus