Having reflected on case law from 2018 it is clear that it was a bumper year for proprietary estoppel cases. Throughout 2018 myself and Edward Venmore wrote a number of articles on the cases that caught our eye but here is a quick round up of decisions from 2018.

Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch)

The dispute concerned a family farm in Somerset. The Claimant, Lucy, was one of the four children of the deceased, Frank Habberfield. The farming business had been operated as a partnership between Frank and his wife, Jane. The main business had been dairy farming, however that had ceased when Lucy had departed from the farm following a disagreement with other family members. Lucy  was successful in her argument against her mother that she was entitled to the farm and Jane was ordered to pay to Lucy a lump sum in cash amounting to £1.7m.  

James v James [2018] EWHC 43 (Ch)

The claimant, Sam, in James v James was the son of the deceased, Charles James. The subject matter of the proprietary estoppel claim was the deceased’s farm in Dorset. Sam’s case was unsuccessful, in HHJ Matthews’ judgment, on each of the essential ingredients of the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. It was held that nothing had been said to Sam with a sufficient degree of clarity to amount to a promise or assurance that the farm would be left to him.

Gee v Gee & Anor [2018] EWHC 1393 (Ch)

This case concerned a family farm in Oxfordshire, valued at c. £8 million. The claimant, John M Gee (“JM”), was the son of the first defendant John R Gee (“JR” ). The second defendant was JR’s second son, Robert Gee (“RG”).

JM worked on the family farm from the 1970s through to 2016 when he was dismissed for gross misconduct. Following a family fall out, JR transferred all of his property and holdings to RG.  JM alleged that an estoppel had arisen in his favour and was successful.

Thompson v Thompson [2018] EWHC 1338 (Ch)

The deceased, Norman Thompson, and his wife, Doreen, had five children – four daughters and one son, the claimant, Gilbert, who was the youngest. The defendant was Gilbert’s mother, Mrs Thompson. Gilbert’s sisters had all moved away, however Gilbert stayed and worked on the land for most of his life and was successful in his case that he had done so in reliance upon representations, promises and assurances that he would receive the farm upon the death of his parents.

I understand some of these cases are currently being appealed and therefore 2019 is set to be equally busy with proprietary estoppel claims. It is certainly fertile ground for litigation.