The Court of Appeal has recently rejected an appeal by Tegwyn and Mary Davies in Davies & Ano’r v Davies that the High Court had erred in allowing a claim for proprietary estoppel brought by their daughter Eirian Davies (“Ms Davies”).
The claim had been brought in respect of the dairy farm on which Ms Davies had worked for her parents since she was a child and which she had been led to believe she would inherit. She later discovered they had executed wills dividing the farm between all three of their daughters, even though the other two had never worked on it. Ms Davies’ claim was, in summary, that as she had worked on the farm for her parents, to her detriment, and on the understanding that the farm would be left to her on their deaths, they were estopped from leaving the farm to all three of their children.
The Court of Appeal considered precedents in Thorner v Major  and in Gillett v Holt , including, in the latter case the principle that; “The detriment need not consist of the expenditure of money or other quantifiable financial detriment, so long as it is something substantial.” In addition, whether the detriment is sufficiently substantial must be judged by whether it would be unjust or inequitable to allow the assurance which the claimant has relied upon to be disregarded.
The Court of Appeal found that detriment is not to be defined by the difference between what the claimant was worth to the business and what they actually received from it, but by how well the claimant could have done elsewhere. That would take into account quality of life, enjoyment of work, social interactions and other facrors, not just how much money they could have earned. The extent of Ms Davies’ entitlement to the farm will be decided by a subsequent hearing, although the judge did remark that it was not ideal that a case on proprietary estoppel should be split up in that way.
Damon Holliday, Druces LLP 8th May 2014. For more information, please contact Richard Monkcom or Rachel Jones.