Habberfield v Habberfield

Habberfield v Habberfield [2019] EWCA 890

A mother and father owned a farm. They assured one of her daughters that she would inherit it. She worked long hours for low pay for many years. More generally, she did not pursue any alternative career plans. The father died and a dispute arose between mother and daughter.
The daughter’s proprietary estoppel claim succeeded. One of the issues that the Court of Appeal (Lewison LJ) had to consider was the relief.
Should it be calculated by reference to the detriment (GBP 220,000) or the expectation (GBP 1.1 million). The first instance judge decided that it was the latter. The mother was ordered to pay the daughter a sum sufficient to allow her to buy a farm of the type promised.
The mother argued that this failed to respect the principle that the relief should be proportionate to the detriment suffered.
There was some discussion of the question as to whether this was one of those ‘not far short of a contract’ cases and a recognition that this is not a hard and fast category but is at one end of a continuum.
Reluctantly (because of the hardship caused to the mother who would be forced to sell the farm and the farmhouse in which she lived) Lewison LJ upheld the first instance order.

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