Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill, 1990 [ Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil ]: Report and Final Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 82, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and it is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the Question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendment made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendment to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendment made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of the amendment.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration".

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

As Members are aware, they may speak only once on this question.

This Bill, which has already been passed by this House, has now passed all Stages in the Dáil, with only this one technical amendment to correct an omission from section 5 (2). I should explain that the amendment arises from a submission made by the Law Society on the Bill.

Section 5(1) extends the date of knowledge concept to the special limitation period for a person under a legal disability, by this I mean a person who lacks legal capacity such as a minor or a person of unsound mind. Subsection (2) provides that this will not apply where the right of action accrues to a person who is not under such a disability but through whom, nevertheless, the person under a disability claims.

The insertion of the word "first" after the word "action" in subsection (2) is intended to make clear that we are talking about a right of action which accrued to what I might call the able person before it accrued to the person under a disability. The word "first" is an important protection for persons under a disability as, otherwise, they might in certain circumstances lose the benefit of the date of knowledge provision.

Section 5 (2) is the equivalent in this Bill of section 49 (1) (b) of the Statute of Limitations Act, 1957 and the reference to the right of action first accruing occurs in the 1957 provision. It should also occur in section 5 (2) of this Bill, and I would ask the House to support this very important technical amendment.

I am pleased to support the amendment outlined by the Minister. I welcome the passing of the Bill, the contents of which have been Fine Gael policy for some time. It amends the law on limitations of actions as applied in relation to personal injuries. The Bill is similar to the Private Members' Bill introduced by George Birmingham in 1988. The key principle in the Bill is that a three year limitation period in personal injury cases will run from the date on which the person injured discovered, or should have discovered, that there was a cause of action. It allows for injuries which do not immediately manifest themselves. I compliment the Law Reform Commission on the excellent work done in this area. I congratulate the Minister in bringing the Bill through the House.

This Bill was initiated in this House. As the Minister explained, there was a technical amendment made in the other House. Obviously, it is an improvement in the Bill. On this side of the House we welcome it.

I would like to thank you, Sir, Senators Neville, Fallon and the Members of the House for dealing with this amendment expeditiously. It is a technical but, nevertheless, very important point. This, of course, is a technical Bill but it makes a fundamental change in our law in relation to the limitation of action in personal injury cases. It introduces the concept of dis-coverability which will be an aid to plaintiffs who no longer will be in danger of losing a right of action for compensation even before they knew they had one.

I am sincerely grateful for the positive attitude of Seanad Éireann and deeply grateful for the continued contribution they make to improving the laws and legislative process of our country.

Question put and agreed to.
Question: "that the Bill do now pass" put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 2.10 p.m. until 12 noon on Tuesday, 9 July 1991.