Limitation Periods for Latent Damage
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About the project

The Singapore Academy of Law’s Law Reform Committee recommended that the Limitation Act (Chapter 163, 1985 Revised Edition; currently the 1996 Revised Edition) be revised due to a judgment of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom relating to the British legislation on which Singapore’s Act was based. In Pirelli General Cable Works v Oscar Faber and Partners [1983] 2 AC 1, the House of Lords had held that a cause of action accrued as soon as a wrongful act had caused personal injury beyond what could be regarded as negligible, even when that injury was unknown to and could not be discovered by the sufferer. Under the Singapore Limitation Act as it then stood, the limitation period started running from the time the action accrued. Thus, there was a real likelihood that an injured person’s right of action in cases of latent damage might become time-barred before the person knew or could have known about the damage.

In the Pirelli judgment, the House of Lords had said that the legal position was “harsh and absurd” and that it was “unjustified in principle that a cause of action should be held to accrue before it was possible to discover the damage”. The Court thus recommended that legislation be enacted to overcome this undesirable state of affairs. The UK Parliament subsequently passed the Latent Damage Act 1986 (1986 chapter 37) to remove the problem. The Law Reform Committee recommended that the Singapore Act should similarly be amended along the lines of the Latent Damage Act (UK) and the Limitation Act 1980 (1980 chapter 58; UK).

Project status: Completed

  • The discussion paper was published on 24 August 1989.
  • The recommendations in the paper were implemented by Parliament through the Limitation (Amendment) Act 1992 (No 22 of 1992), which was passed on 29 May 1992 and came into force on 26 June 1992. The amendment added sections 24A, 24B and 24C to the Limitation Act, which provide for an alternative starting date for limitation periods, namely, the date when an injured person has knowledge of the damage that has occurred. The limitation period is computed from the date that expires later. The interest of injured persons is balanced against that of potential defendants by the amended law providing that no action may be brought after 15 years from the date of the breach of duty, even though the damage or injury has not and could not be discovered.
  • The paper was mentioned in the Law Reform Committee’s later report, Report of the Law Reform Committee on the Review of the Limitation Act (Cap 163) (February 2007) at paragraphs 144 and 159 (footnote 133).

Areas of law

Civil procedure


Discussion Paper for the Law Reform Sub-commitee on Civil Law and Civil Proceedings on Limitation Periods for Latent Damage

Click on the image above to view the paper

Last updated 24 May 2019