The strict time limit for bringing a personal injury claim is three years from the date you knew or ought to have known you had an injury caused by work. But the court sometimes gives discretion.
The claimant had been involved in work with vibratory tools with two defendants from 1988 to 2008. He began to develop problems with his fingers in 2003. He saw his GP for the first time in January 2005.
In June 2005, a rheumatologist gave a diagnosis of VWF. The Judge found that the claimant had actual knowledge in June 2005. Proceedings were not commenced until April 2009 so on the face of it too late .
On the issue of discretion under Section 33 of the Limitation Act, the defendants contended that they would not be able to find witnesses to deal with the issue of how much vibration there was prior to the claimant experiencing symptoms if the court let the claim in late.
They also said that they had been sued in three previous cases, which had been successfully defended. In addition, they criticised the claimant for delaying seeing a solicitor. But the claimant said he did not even think about making a claim until he underwent an occupational health assessment at the end of October 2007.
The Judge concluded that the surveys about vibration from 2000 onwards were still available. An engineer would be able to comment on the amount of vibration from the type of tools used at the relevant time.
The fact that the depot had closed was not relevant as the defendants were able to provide evidence about what the claimant did and what tools he used. On balance, he considered there would be more prejudice for the claimant in not allowing him to proceed and the judge therefore ordered that the case should proceed to trial.
Newcastle upon Tyne County Court, 1 February 2010.