The House of Lords this week gave a "welcome and much needed boost" to

professional defendants and their insurers on the issue of how long claimants have to bring a claim, according to legal experts.

In Haward v Fawcetts, the House of Lords reversed a Court of Appeal decision which would have effectively rendered the three-year

limitation period "impotent" as a defence to stale claims, leaving the 15-year 'longstop' period as "the only useful limitation threshold".

The Court of Appeal's decision appeared to delay the start of the three-year limitation period until the claimant had knowledge of the precise grounds of his claim against a defendant. The House of Lords effectively confirmed that the three-year limitation period, under sections 14 and 14A of the Limitation Act, existed to allow a claimant time to investigate and prepare a claim.

Rob Morris, a senior solicitor at CMS Cameron McKenna, which acted for the successful defendant said: "It will now be no answer to a limitation defence for the claimant to say that he was unsure who or what caused his loss if he knew that something had gone wrong of which he was prima facie entitled to complain.

"If claimants fail to investigate their potential claims within three-years of realising they may have received flawed or inadequate advice they should not expect the courts to let them off the hook."