Estoppel at common law

In Jorden v Money (1854) 10 E.R. 868, PC) J held a bond under which M agreed to pay her a sum of money. She often declared that she would not seek to enforce the bond because of her affection for M. Relying on this, M’s fiancee’s family settled property on him as part of the marriage arrangements. After the marriage, J brought proceedings against M to recover the money due. M argued that she was estopped (at common law) from doing so.

The House of Lords referred to a line of authorities such as Pickard v Sears in which Lord Denman had said:

‘But the rule of law is clear that where one by his words or conduct wilfully causes another to believe the existence of a certain state of things, and induces him to act on that belief, so as to alter his own previous position, the former is concluded from averring against the latter a different state of things as existing at the same time.’

The majority of the House of Lords in Jorden v Money held that J was not estopped. The rule only operated with regard to representations of fact and in this case J had only made a representation as to her intention.

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