The Limitations of Actions Ordinance 2021 which was enacted into law by the House of Assembly one year ago will soon come into effect following a one-year grace period.
As of October 11, 2022, legal action for disputes that are several years old will no longer be entertained when that day arrives.
The new law also extends limitation periods for some actions and excludes some action from certain limitations periods.
Some civil actions under the new law like defamation, other malicious falsehoods, tort and simple contract which would have been considered expired by the commencement date of October 14, 2021 were granted a grace period of 12 months. Other actions in this category relate to recovery of land and rent, trust property or the personal estate of deceased persons.
The Limitations of Actions Ordinance will equally apply to proceedings by or against the Crown in the same manner as it applies to proceedings between persons.
The Ordinance however does not apply to any right, title or interest to or in land or immovable property of the Crown; any proceedings by the Crown for the recovery of any tax or duty or interest; any forfeiture proceedings under any Ordinance relating to customs or to duties of excise; any proceedings for the forfeiture of a ship or aircraft; or any action or arbitration for which a limitation period is prescribed by or under any other legislation, whether enacted before or after the commencement of the Limitations law.
Matters of land known as ‘generational land’ will not be subject to the Limitations law.
When the law came into effect last October, the Hon Attorney General, Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles remarked that the introduction of statutes of limitation in the Turks and Caicos Islands provides certainty to the end of litigation.
Braithwaite-Knowles said “prior to the enactment of the Ordinance, whilst there are some particular provisions, there was no legislation in the Islands dealing with limitation periods in general for various civil actions.”
She added, “the problem is that with the passage of time, recollections fade, witnesses pass away, records are lost, and people move on with their lives, making it difficult to be successful in litigation,” citing ‘Canny M. Limitation of Actions in England and Wales.’
Limitations under the Law
The following actions shall not be brought after the expiration of two years from the date the action accrued: libel or slander; slander of title; slander of goods; any other malicious falsehood.
A six-year cap is now applied to actions founded on simple contract or tort; enforcement of an award where the submission is not by an instrument under seal; recovery of a sum recoverable through any law; or enforcement of a recognisance.
Where a cause of action for a conversion of chattel (personal property) has accrued to a person and, before the person recovers possession of same, a further conversion takes place, legal action cannot be brought for the further conversion after the expiration of six years from the original conversion.
However, the limitation for legal action to be brought does not apply if the personal property is stolen.
The law states that where theft can be proven, it will be presumed that the conversion of the property followed the theft, unless it is shown otherwise.
Meanwhile, an action to recover contribution by or for a person entitled to a right to recover contribution for any damage from another person, cannot be brought after the expiration of two years from the date that right accrued.
As it relates to personal injury, legal action cannot be brought after the expiration of three years.
As for land recovery, persons cannot bring an action to recover land after the expiration of twelve years from the date the right of action accrued to them.
An action for damages of negligence, not involving personal injury, cannot be brought after the expiration of fifteen years from the date an act or omission occurred.
As it relates to actions to recover land, the statute of limitation is 12 years, and to recover arrears of rent or damages, six years.
As it relates to claims to a deceased person’s estate, legal action cannot be taken after the expiration of 12 years.
Also, legal action to recover arrears of interest for a legacy or damages of the arrears, cannot be brought after the expiration of six years from the date the interest became due.