Proprietary Estoppel

2557 WordsApr 12, 201211 Pages
“In Thorner –v- Major, the House of Lords confirmed that a claimant seeking to establish a proprietary estoppel must prove three things: (1) that the defendant’s assurances or conduct in relation to identified property were sufficiently clear and unambiguous in all the circumstances, (2) to lead the claimant reasonably to rely on those assurances or conduct; (3) by acting significantly to his detriment, so that it would be unconscionable for the defendant to deny him any remedy.” (Per Hayton and Mitchell: ‘Commentary and cases on the law of Trust and Equitable Remedies’, 13th edition, Sweet and Maxwell, page 78) Critically analyse and evaluate this statement in light of recent developments in the law of proprietary estoppel.…show more content…
This requirement for a specific assurance narrowed the scope of operation of the doctrine and was inconsistent with previous Court of Appeal decisions such as Gillett v Holt and Jennings v Rice where a claimant had an expectation of a future interest in land. Lord Walker further restricted the doctrine by stating that the claimant must believe “that the assurance on which he or she relied was binding and irrevocable”. Therefore the claimant must not only believe that the landowner has made a promise, but also believe that the promise is legally binding. He made it clear that context was important. “In the domestic or family context, the typical claimant is not a business person and is not receiving legal advice...The focus is not on intangible legal rights but on the tangible property which he or she expects to get.” As the parties involved in Cobbe were “persons experienced in the property world, both parties knew that there was no legally binding contract, and that either was therefore free to discontinue the negotiations without legal liability…the fact is that he ran a commercial risk, with his eyes open” This restriction is also inconsistent with Gillett v Holt which “explicitly addressed, and rejected, the notion that the revocability of wills prevents a promise to make a will forming the basis of a proprietary estoppel claim.” Surprisingly it was Lord Walker who gave the leading judgement in that case and acknowledged here that “It may
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