Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court
WE’RE into the sixth month of the year, yet Covid-19 maintains its firm grip on our lives. I’ve kept AZPNews.com readers up to date on measures the attorney general has taken to pause time from running as it relates to being able to file courts actions during the pandemic. Before I give another update, here’s a quick recap:
In our country, the Limitations of Certain Actions Act, Chapter 7:09 (the Act) sets out time limits to file lawsuits. These time limits are applicable to certain types of matters, such as those that are based on the law of contract, or in tort (e.g., nuisance and negligence). Examples would be you suing for breach of a contract where your customer failed to pay for goods within 30 days of receiving them (contract law) or you suing a driver who negligently damaged your car in a road accident (law of torts).
Section 3(1) of the Act implements a 4-year time limit to sue, starting from the day that your right to sue arose. This law is primarily based on the principle that there should be finality to litigation, and within this concept, there should be finality to a person’s exposure to being sued by another. Using the car accident example, if the collision occurred on March 30, 2016 and other driver refused to settle the matter out of court, you should have sued by March 29, 2020. If you didn’t meet that deadline, you would have ordinarily lost the right to receive compensation for your damaged car, as the other side could have raised the defence of the statute of limitations. The Judge could have found your matter was statute barred.
Our Attorney General however had passed a law last year which served to automatically extend the time you have to sue. This initial law was found under section 6 of the Miscellaneous Amendments Act, No. 10 of 2020 as extended by Legal Notice No. 96 of 2020 (called The Limitation of Certain Actions (Extension of Period) Order, 2020). He stopped time from running on March 27, 2020.
Over time, the attorney general passed several more laws to continue to extend the amount of time you have to sue. The latest incarnation was made into law on May 27, 2021 and is found in Legal Notice No. 154 of 2021 (called The Limitation of Certain Actions (Extension of Period) (No. 2) Order, 2021) – available online. Time no longer runs up to January 5, 2022.
To figure out the four-year deadline when your matter becomes statute barred, the period March 27, 2020 to January 5, 2022 is not to be included in this calculation. Using the above car accident scenario, the collision occurred on March 30, 2016 and ordinarily would have become statute barred on March 29, 2020. With the said extensions stopping time from running, the period March 27, 2020 to January 5, 2022 are not to be included in the computation of time. On March 27, 2020 there would have been two days left to run before the matter became statute barred. If the attorney general passes no further extensions, my interpretation is that time starts to run again from January 6, 2022. By my calculations, it is now possible to sue the other driver (in the car accident example) up to January 7, 2022.
I haven’t been able to find any information on why the attorney general chose such a lengthy period to stop time from running. He also granted extensions for several other matters, regarding non-profit companies, bills of sale, and registration of charges and waiver of penalties for companies all up to January 5, 2022.
However, I suspect it may have something to do with the minister of health’s pronouncements in mid-May that he hoped to vaccinate sufficient people in six to seven months’ time (i.e. around November/December 2021) for T&T to achieve the target of herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of the population becomes immune to the virus, making the spread from person to person unlikely. It is hoped when herd immunity is achieved, life can return to relative normalcy.
Is seems at best, we may have several months to continue battling this virus. And we’re certainly being given time to put our legal affairs in order to cater for the prejudice caused by the pandemic. Wear your masks, sanitise and be safe T&T!
Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
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