In 2018 I wrote an article about the case of Habberfield v Habberfield which can be found here.
This was a claim by Lucy Habberfield, daughter of Jane, who worked at her family's farm in Somerset for 30 years before leaving in 2013. Lucy was successful in arguing that her father had promised her part of the farm for her years of work. She was awarded £1.17m after the Court found she had been promised a significant part of the £2.5m farm.
Lucy's mother, Jane, was granted permission to appeal which was heard on 14 and 15 May 2019. The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court decision and unanimously rejected Jane's claim that the amount Lucy should be awarded should be reduced and she should be given a longer period of time to pay Lucy.
The Appeal Court decided that the original order was within the ambit of the Judge's wide discretion.
We see a steady flow of proprietary estoppel claims and especially in farming families. Most of these claims are very much one party's recollection of events against someone with a competing interest. These cases emphasise the importance of trying to avoid such problems arising by being open, transparent and consistent with family members when discussing plans for succession.
On the other side of the scale, Lucy was 51 at the date of trial. She had not had control of the dairy unit (as she had been promised) for a decade or thereabouts. She wanted to begin farming on her own account before it was too late. Without access to the cash award she would not be able to do so. Although Jane is elderly, she might live for many years. In view of the family breakdown it was also highly desirable for there to be a clean break.