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Home // Legal Disputes – What Is Deliberate Concealment?

Our first meeting with a client who wants to pursue or defend a legal claim usually begins with a discussion about limitation periods. Is the claim statute-barred? That’s to say, has the claimant or defendant left it too long to bring the claim. 

The law sets out strict time limits within which legal cases can be brought. If you leave it too late, you won’t be able to successfully sue – no matter who cast iron your case. An exception to the limitation rules is the concept of ‘deliberate concealment’, and we look at when it might arise below. If you are a small or medium-sized business involved in a commercial dispute, Nath Solicitors can help. Please call us on 44 (0) 203 983 8278 for advice. 

Deliberate Concealment – The Rules

When information is concealed or fails to be disclosed by a party, individuals may be completely unaware that they have the right to make a claim against that party. The longer they are unaware of the relevant information, the more likely the usual limitation period for the claim to be pursued will expire. However, section 32(1)(b) of the Limitation Act 1980 states that the limitation period will not start to run where any fact relevant to the plaintiff’s right of action has been deliberately concealed from him by the defendant. 

Deliberate Concealment – A Case Study

The deliberate concealment rule was applied in the case of Canada Square v Potter, 2023 where a Mrs. Potter, the claimant, had taken out a loan with Canada Square, the defendant. The significant commission the defendant would retain from the agreement was not disclosed to the claimant. 

As part of the loan agreement the claimant was required to take out a payment protection premium (PPI)of £3,834.24. Over 95% of the premium was paid to Canada Square as commission on the sale of the PPI Policy. This information formed the crux of the claim.

The claimant only discovered this information 12 years later when the usual limitation period of 6 years for such a case had long expired. Nevertheless, the claimant filed a claim against the defendant on the basis of its failure to disclose the information about the level of commission the bank stood to gain under the agreement. She argued that this rendered the relationship between her and the bank unfair, entitling her to recover monies in accordance with the Consumer Credit Act, 1974. 

While the defendant argued that the claim was outside the limitation period, the claimant relied on section 32(1)(b) Limitation Act, in that the limitation period did not being until they became aware of the concealed information. Further to that, the claimant also relied on s32(2) which states that deliberate commission of a breach of duty in circumstances in which it is unlikely to be discovered for some time amounts to deliberate concealment of facts involved in that breach of duty. 


The courts held that the claimant was able to successfully rely on section s32(1)(b) of the Limitation Act and the limitation period was postponed beginning only once the claimant became aware of the concealed information. 

The courts established that a fact is concealed if it is withheld from the claimant either through taking active steps or failing to disclose it, regardless of whether there was any obligation or moral or social duty to disclose said facts or not. 

Concealment is deliberate if the defendant knowingly intended to conceal the fact which led to the claimant being unaware that they may be able to bring a claim, and the defendant need not be aware of the fact being relevant to the claimant’s claim. Although judges rejected the claimant’s argument under s32(2) that the lack of disclosure led to an unfair relationship, there still remained a deliberate concealment of a fact relevant for bringing a claim. The claimant was therefore not prevented from bringing the claim outside the original limitation period.


In conclusion, a claimant will not be prevented from bringing a claim within the usual limitation period where the defendant has withheld information to an extent that makes the claimant unaware of their right to pursue a claim, 

Information can be concealed both through active steps being taken to withhold the information or simply through a failure to disclose the information. Should it be found that such relevant information was knowingly concealed from the claimant, the limitation period will not begin until the claimant becomes aware of that information.

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