Lender’s professional negligence claim is out of time

In Bridging Loans Ltd v Kevin J Toombs [2017] EWCA Civ 205, the Court of Appeal provided guidance on the award of summary judgment on limitation grounds in professional negligence cases (in this case a lender’s claim against a valuer).

The brief facts were that on 3 November 2006 the Appellant lent £502,750 to the borrower to fund development works at a property which the Respondent had valued at £730,000. The loan period was for 6 months. By 3 May 2007 the borrower had not repaid the loan and, following a demand letter on 11 May 2007, the Appellants were granted an order for possession. The Appellant subsequently found that the planning consent was materially different from what the valuer valued the property at, with the true value of the property being worth only £450,000. Proceedings were not issued until 16 May 2013 – more than 6 years after the borrower’s default – on the basis that the property had been overvalued.

The Respondent applied for summary judgment and strike out, arguing that the Appellant’s claim was time-barred, as damage had occurred more than 6 years before proceedings were issued.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the judge at first instance and held that the Appellant’s claim was time-barred as the damage occurred in May 2007 when the property was worth less than the outstanding debt. Also fatal to the Appellant’s appeal was that they had not adduced any evidence to demonstrate that the true value of the property might have been any higher than the figures pleaded.

Comment:
It is clear that in any professional negligence case, limitation considerations should always be kept in mind. Expert evidence on valuation should be sought to demonstrate the security the lender had over the loan at all material times.  Pleadings should, where possible, convey a range of valuation figures to get over any potential limitation problems should a defendant wish to apply for summary judgment on limitation grounds in similar lenders’ cases.

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