The quality of evidence in proprietary estoppel cases

Suggitt v Suggitt ([2011] EWHC 903 (Ch)) was a proprietary estoppel claim. F (the father) owned valuable farmland and associated farmhouses. He left these to his daughter C but gave her power to transfer the farmland to his son (J) if C decided that J had demonstrated the ability to run the farm. J’s claim to the farmland and one of the houses based on proprietary estoppel succeeded. The evidence as to the making of a promise was not overwhelming but the judge was nevertheless convinced that a promise had been made and that J had relied on this to his detriment (but not enormous detriment as F had given his son the use of farmland and free board and lodging). Despite the sense that John ‘wants the maximum for the minimum’ (at para. 59), the court transferred much of F’s estate to J . He had done something in reliance on the promise but not much. The court recognised clearly that the father’s will reflected his wishes and intentions but these were at odds with what he had promised to J.

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