Home The Law and The Gavel Time Limits Regulating Lawsuits Sent to Court

Time Limits Regulating Lawsuits Sent to Court

by Eugenia Enyonam Datsomor
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Time Limits Regulating Lawsuits Sent to Court

Instances arise where a person’s right to bring an action before the Court is deterred. This is a result of it being brought after the permissible time frame. In such instances, the action sought after is said to be statute barred. When a cause of action is statute-barred, it means that the limitation period specified by the relevant statute of limitations has expired.

Thus, the legal claim associated with that particular cause of action is no longer enforceable due to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations.

The law regulating limitations on actions

The limitation periods for bringing claims in Ghana are regulated by the Limitation Act 1972 (NRCD 54). It establishes specific time limits within which legal actions must be initiated after the occurrence of an event or harm. These time limits serve as a mechanism to balance the interests of parties involved in a legal suit. This is to ensure that claims are brought in a timely manner while allowing for the resolution of disputes within a reasonable timeframe.

The clock starts from the occurrence of the event that gives rise to the cause of action, such as an injury, a breach of contract, or the discovery of harm. If an individual fails to initiate legal action within the prescribed limitation period, their cause of action becomes statute barred. For instance, an action for damages for the benefit of the dependants of a deceased person under the Civil Liability Act, 1963 (Act 176) shall not be brought after the expiration of three years from the death of the deceased according to section 3 of NRCD 54.

Exceptions to the rule

While limitation periods act as strict deadlines, there exist exceptions that suspend or extend the limitation period under certain circumstances. These exceptions aim to address situations where it would be unfair or unjust to strictly enforce the limitation period. Examples are that involving minors, cases where the cause of action was fraudulently concealed, or situations where the harm was discovered at a later date. Such exceptions can suspend or extend the limitation period, allowing the claimant to pursue their legal claim even after the initial expiration of the deadline.

Legal Effects of a Statute-barred Case

Statute barring a cause of action generally results in the loss of remedies for the claimant. This is because, once the limitation period has expired the individual loses their right to pursue the claim through legal means. The defendant can invoke the defence of the statute of limitations, asserting that the claim is time-barred and should be dismissed.
A case to note of a statute-barred action is that of Ayeh v. Aryeh where the plaintiff sought to recover land, the claim was based on an event that occurred over 12 years before the legal action was initiated. A defence was raised by the defendant on the issue of statute-barred, arguing that the claim was unenforceable due to the expired time limit under the Limitation Act, 1972 (NRCD 54). The Act set a 12-year limitation period for land recovery actions. The court upheld the defence, ruling that the claim was statute barred as it exceeded the prescribed limitation period. This case emphasizes the importance of initiating legal actions within the specified timeframe to avoid claims being rendered statute barred.


It is vital for individuals involved in potential legal claims to be aware of the applicable limitation period for their cause of action. By being aware of the limitation period, and potential exceptions, and seeking appropriate legal advice, individuals can navigate the complexities of the statute of limitations and take necessary actions to protect their rights and interests within the prescribed timeframe.

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