The Statute of Limitations Act, 1957 provides a defence to claims which are made after a certain amount of time has elapsed. Depending on the type of action brought, different limitation periods apply. Some examples are below:
Where there is fraud or concealment in any case, the limitation period will only start running from the date that the fraud or concealment is discovered or could have been discovered.
Stopping the Clock
When taking a case to the High Court or Supreme Court, the clock stops running on any limitation period when the proceedings have commenced. This means that the clock stops when the claim is filed in Court. However, different rules apply to claims brought before the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, where complaints of conduct relating to the provision of long-term financial services can be made to the Ombudsman before the last of:
(i) 6 years of the conduct which gave rise to the complaint;
(ii) 3 years from when the complainant became aware of the conduct; or
(iii) any longer period that the Ombudsman permits1.
Recent Considerations on Time Limits for Claims made to the FSPO
In the recent case of The Trustees of Vodafone Ireland Pension Plan v Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman2, the Applicants sought to judicially review a decision of the Ombudsman which held that the particular complaint was made within the limitation period.
The Applicants argued that the complaint made related to a deed executed in 2012 which changed the rules of a pension plan and as such, the limitation period had expired. However, more accurately, the complaint related to the calculation of entitlements under that pension plan and the basis of the Complainant’s view was that the 2012 deed didn’t apply to him and therefore, several miscalculations of his pension entitlements were made up to February 2018, meaning the complaint fell within the limitation period.
Justice Simons found that the Applicants’ case was based on a “mischaracterisation” of the complaint made3 and observed that the approach to limitation periods under the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act, 2017 (the “2017 Act”) is radically different from that governing legal proceedings, especially judicial review proceedings4. Justice Simons went on to state that the limitation period under the 2017 Act runs from the date of the last of a series of acts or omissions, not from the first5.
Justice Simons duly dismissed the proceedings in their entirety as the “complaint was well within time”.6
This finding by Justice Simons is a reminder to all legal practitioners that an in-depth knowledge of the law relating to the limitation of actions is truly invaluable and that different rules apply depending on the nature of the claim and the forum in which they are brought.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of the above with a member of our Litigation Team, please contact Harry Caulfield or Liam Collins for more information.
1 Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act, 2017, s. 51(2).
2 The Trustees of Vodafone Ireland Pension Plan v Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman  IEHC 47.
3 Ibid, para 27.
4 Ibid, para 57.
5 Ibid, para 57.
6 Ibid, para 58.
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