Understanding the Law
January 10, 2014

Penalty for delay

A cause of action exists for injury to person, property and reputation, among others. You must have a cause of action in order to start legal proceedings against someone; otherwise, the person sued could bring a motion against you to dismiss the matter because there is no cause of action. For example, you can initiate legal proceedings against a person for negligence because that person has acted carelessly or recklessly towards you and caused harm. In law, a person has a duty of care towards you.{{more}} Therefore you have a cause of action in negligence to approach the court. The cause of action accrues when the injury is sustained or when the injury or damage should have been known with reasonable diligence.

Limitation Act

You have a duty to take your matter to court immediately. There is a limitation act, which spells out the time period for suing in various matters. In other words, the law provides a limited time for action to be initiated in a court of law. Sometimes people are busy and neglect to take action quickly to deal with an issue. On the other hand, persons might not know that the law sets limitation time for a cause of action. Litigation is not available forever. Limitation time for some persons might be delayed. For example, a minor can bring action after age 18 even though the injury occurred several years prior.

Breach of contract There is a cause of action for a breach of contract and there is also a limitation period. In a case decided in our court, the defendant borrowed $4,500 from the bank and promised to pay the money back in equal installments of $300 each month for 24 months, with interest. The defendant contracted to pay the customary service charge and assessments for any notice of overdue installment. After two payments, the defendant defaulted and did not pay for a long time. The defendant made a small payment some years after. Action was taken in the court to collect the total amount of money owing, including interest some 11 years after the cause of action had accrued. The defendant pleaded that the loan was barred according to law.

Six years to recover loan

Pursuant to the limitation act, a claimant has six years after the accrual of the cause of action to bring action against a defendant for the recovery of money. A person is therefore statute barred after six years by way of section 7 of the Limitation Act, Chapter 129 of the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines (2009), to bring an action. Moreover once barred by the act, it cannot be revived by any subsequent payment or part payment.

Banking institutions and individuals are all subject to limitation periods and should know when cause of action begins to run. Cause of action founded on contract runs from the date of the breach. When a defendant is delinquent and misses a payment, the whole becomes due. This is the earliest time that an action could be brought against the defendant. Since the defendant was delinquent, the bank could have taken action to recover the sum when the cause of action accrued at the time of the breach.

Perhaps you could say that the law rewards persons who breach an agreement and many people do get away with this, but perhaps it is teaching others to be diligent. I do not agree with allowing a defaulter to go free of his debt, but my opinion is inconsequential because it is actually the law of the land. So, be advised! Be quick; time is of essence. There is a limitation act.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com