EC claims are dismissed

Spencer v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; Moore v Secretary of State for Transport and Motor Insurers' Bureau (Court of Appeal - 1 July 2008)

The Court of Appeal has given judgment in two appeals, both concerning limitation in claims for damages under the principle in Francovich v Italian Republic (1995) (for failure to implement EC legislation) against the government. Mr Moore's claim was based upon receiving inadequate compensation from the Motor Insurers' Bureau, while Mr Spencer's claim was that a claim against his employer had failed because the government had not implemented legislation (and, therefore, created a duty upon his employer), which would have given rise to a claim.

In both cases the claimants appealed against the summary judgments dismissing their claims as statute barred by s 2 of the Limitation Act 1980, arguing that until such time as the relevant tribunals had adjudicated on their claims, no loss had been incurred by the breach. The deficit in quantum, which had been caused by the breach would only be apparent when the decisions had been reached. Limitation should, therefore, run from the later dates of those decisions.

The Court of Appeal rejected the arguments. The material date for limitation purposes was the date on which it was clear that some form of loss had occurred, even if it was not at that stage properly quantifiable. In Mr Moore's case, this was the date of his road accident; in Mr Spencer's case, it was his date of knowledge of his personal injury claim.

Two further arguments advanced were considered and rejected, namely that time for limitation purposes in a Francovich claim did not run until all domestic remedies were exhausted first; and that the potential costs of bringing the government into the original claim ran counter to the European Commission principle of effectiveness.

The appeals were dismissed and judgments upheld.


This decision sensibly prevents a potentially large influx of old claims against the government for failure to implement EC legislation. - Rochelle Blenkinsop, BLM Stockton-on-Tees.

These law reports are contributed by national law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer (

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