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PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL IN THE SUPREME COURT: BANQUO'S GHOST?

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

The facts of Guest v Guest [2022] UKSC 27, [2022] 3 W.L.R. 911 fitted a familiar pattern. For over 30 years, Andrew worked and lived on Tump Farm, owned by his parents, David and Josephine, for low wages. David promised Andrew (taking account of other familial expectations) a sufficient share of the farm to enable him to run a viable farming business on the parents’ deaths. The parents made wills accordingly. But following a falling out, Andrew was removed from the wills and left Tump Farm. The judge’s undisturbed conclusion ([2019] EWHC 869 (Ch)) was that Andrew had made out a proprietary estoppel claim against his still-living parents: he had relied to his detriment on David’s non-contractual promises, such that it was unconscionable for David to resile from them. The case invited the Supreme Court to consider a fundamental question, effectively for the first time in living memory at the highest level: should successful estoppel claimants like Andrew generally have their expectations fulfilled, should they generally be limited to having their detriment reversed, or was the correct approach a third way? The precise answer divided the panel, which issued two lengthy judgments (lacking explicit direct engagement with each other) over ten months after the one-day hearing.

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Keywords

48 Law and Legal Studies

Journal Title

The Cambridge Law Journal

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Journal ISSN

0008-1973
1469-2139

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Publisher

Cambridge University Press (CUP)