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Anson's Law of Contract

Anson's Law of Contract (31st edn)

Jack Beatson FBA, Andrew Burrows FBA, QC (Hon), and John Cartwright
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date: 21 July 2024

p. 60520. Limitation of Actionslocked

p. 60520. Limitation of Actionslocked

  • Jack Beatson, Jack Beatsonis a former Lord Justice of Appeal and Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge; and is a Visiting Professor, University of Oxford
  • Andrew BurrowsAndrew Burrowsis Professor of the Law of England and Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford and (as of June 2, 2020) he has been appointed a Justice of the UK Supreme Court.
  •  and John CartwrightJohn CartwrightEmeritus Professor of the Law of Contract, University of Oxford


At common law, lapse of time does not affect contractual rights. But it is the policy of the law to discourage stale claims because, after a long period, a defendant may not have the evidence to rebut such claims and should be in a position to know that after a given time an incident which might have led to a claim is finally closed. Accordingly, in the Limitation Act 1980, the Legislature has laid down certain periods of limitation after the expiry of which no action can be maintained. Equity has developed a doctrine of laches, under which a claimant who has not shown reasonable diligence in prosecuting the claim may be barred from equitable relief.

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