Visitor v Visitor [2022] UKSC 27 – UKSC Weblog

On this submit, Tobias Seger, an Affiliate at CMS, feedback on the Supreme Court docket’s determination in Visitor v Visitor [2022] UKSC 27, handed down by the Supreme Court docket on 19 October 2022. This case considerations the correct strategy to granting aid below the doctrine of proprietary estoppel.


““Sooner or later my son, all this will probably be yours” Spoken by a farmer to his son when in his teenagers and repeated for a few years thereafter.” That is Lord Briggs introduction to his judgment in Visitor v Visitor and this additionally summarizes the info at difficulty. On account of this promise the son had lived and labored on his household’s farm for over 25 years, solely incomes a really small wage. Round 2008 there was a breakdown within the relationship between the daddy and son and consequently the son was faraway from the need. The son utilized to the courtroom below the doctrine of proprietary estoppel to be awarded the farm that he was promised.

Proprietary estoppel applies the place A (the promisor) makes a promise in relation to property to B (the promisee) and B will depend on that promise to their detriment. A later reneges on that promise in a method that’s unconscionable. In these circumstances B might have an motion in opposition to A.

The courtroom of first occasion dominated that the son did have a legitimate declare on the premise of proprietary estoppel and dominated that the dad and mom ought to promote the farm and the son ought to obtain from the proceeds of sale 50% of the worth of the farming enterprise and 40 % of the land and buildings of the farm (each funds to be made after tax). This was upheld by the Court docket of Enchantment and afterward appealed to the Supreme Court docket.

It was perceived that there was a “energetic controversy” whether or not the treatment for a declare below proprietary estoppel must be compensation for the detriment suffered by the promise or enforcement of the promise, so long as mentioned enforcement wouldn’t be disproportionate.

Given the controversy, it was unlucky Visitor v Visitor was determined in a 3-2 cut up determination, with two very persuasive judgments. The bulk, following the judgment of Lord Briggs, dominated that the first treatment must be enforcement of the promise, whereas the minority, following the judgment by Lord Leggat, argued that the treatment must be compensatory in nature. Nonetheless, the 2 judgments present an intensive evaluation of the related authorities, set out in additional element beneath and due to this fact present an in depth assessment of the guiding rules going ahead.

Authorized Evaluation

Lord Briggs (with Girl Arden and Girl Rose concurring) is of the view that when proprietary estoppel is engaged, the beginning place is that the courtroom ought to attempt to fulfill the promisee’s expectations, moderately than compensating them for the detriment that they’ve suffered on account of the promise being deserted.

Lord Briggs analyzed proprietary estoppel as one thing that stops the promoter from reneging on their promise. The courtroom’s treatment is to carry the promoter to his authentic promise, just like the doctrine of particular efficiency. His judgment said that “the hurt brought on by the repudiation of the promise will not be the identical because the detriment suffered.” He famous that[t]he true objective, as acknowledged by the Court docket of Enchantment within the current case, is coping with the unconscionability constituted by the promisor repudiating his promise.” It’s, in his view, flawed to deal with that query as restricted to the difficulty of whether or not or not an fairness arises after which not taking it into consideration when framing the treatment.

In abstract, Lord Briggs argued {that a} courtroom ought to strategy a declare below proprietary estoppel in three phases:
(1) The courtroom ought to decide whether or not the promisor’s repudiation is unconscionable.
(2) The second stage ought to begin with the idea that the best technique to treatment the unconscionable repudiation is by holding the promisor to the promise.
(3) If the promisor can show that the particular efficiency of the complete promise, or financial equal, could be out of all proportion to the price of the detriment, then the courtroom might take into account limiting the treatment.

Lord Briggs concluded: “In my opinion due to this fact this courtroom ought to firmly reject the idea that the purpose of the treatment for proprietary estoppel is detriment-based kinds any a part of the legislation of England.”

Then again, Lord Leggat (and Lord Gross sales concurring along with his judgment) centered on the truth that proprietary estoppel was initially primarily based on the acquisition by A in, or encouragement of, an mistaken perception by B that A had given them a property proper . He said that “[t]his understanding of the doctrine in unfavourable and defensive phrases, nevertheless, afterward developed right into a conception of “proprietary estoppel” as a constructive explanation for motion.” He steered that this second type of proprietary estoppel could be higher named a property expectation declare.

Lord Leggat emphasised that proprietary estoppel must be ruled by precept and never simply the conscience or sense of equity of the person decide. He argued {that a} property expectation declare doesn’t function in a binary method. The strategy by the courts has not been that, offered there was substantial reliability by the promise, the promise will probably be enforced. As a substitute, there have been circumstances the place a sum of cash has been awarded to the claimant “which doesn’t mirror, and was not meant to mirror, the worth of what was promised.”

When it comes to treatment, Lord Leggat agreed with Lord Briggs that the courtroom can ask the promisor to carry out the promise, nevertheless, in Lord Leggat’s view the place there’s a couple of technique to keep away from detriment to the claimant the courtroom ought to, in precept, undertake the remedial strategy which imposes the least burden on the defendant. Lord Leggat’s precept place is due to this fact one the place the courtroom ought to search to compensate for the detriment suffered by the promisee moderately, as steered by Lord Briggs, to carry the promisor to their promise.

Lord Briggs dismissed this view in his judgment stating that:

the supposed logic of the detriment-based strategy is for my part each defective in origin and flawed in its inevitable outcome. It’s defective in origin as a result of it fails to acknowledge that whereas dependable detriment is critical to interact the equitable aid, and kinds a big a part of its ethical justification, it’s the repudiation of the promised expectations which represent the unconscionable flawed.”

Whereas each judgments present a large assessment of the case legislation on this space, they each concentrate on the correct interpretation of the time period “minimal fairness to do justice” coined by Scarman LJ in Crabb v Arun District Council [1975] EWCA Civ 7.

Lord Briggs argued that the evaluation proposed by Scarman LJ is all about tremendous tuning the achievement of the exception of the promise and has nothing to do with valuing after which compensating for the detriment suffered by a dissatisfied claimant. He additionally cited the case of Bakers v Bakers [1993] EWCA Civ 17 in help of this argument the place it was held that the remarks by Scarman LJ shouldn’t be interpreted to counsel that the courtroom should have needed to place the minimal worth on the dissatisfied curiosity.

The bulk due to this fact upheld the overall strategy taken by the courtroom of first occasion. Nevertheless, Lord Briggs held that the decide of the primary occasion didn’t correctly take into consideration that the promise was being accelerated by the truth that the dad and mom have been nonetheless alive and so the claimant wouldn’t have been in a position to inherit something at this level, even when the promise was nonetheless in place.

Lord Briggs due to this fact allowed the attraction to that extent and offered the dad and mom with a option to both put the farm below a belief, with the dad and mom having a life curiosity within the meantime or to supply the claimant with a monetary compensation now (together with an applicable low cost bearing in mind the acceleration).

Turning to the minority determination. A key argument by Lord Leggat was that the legislation has set out clear guidelines which might be essential to switch property and their promise doesn’t fulfill these circumstances. He famous that[d]escribing failure to maintain such a promise as “unconscionable” can’t justify disregarding the legislation laid down by Parliament.” He argued that the doctrine doesn’t and couldn’t sensibly have as its purpose the enforcement of guarantees which don’t fulfill the necessities for the creation of authorized obligations.

He due to this fact concluded that the treatment should concentrate on the detriment suffered and when there are a number of technique of avoiding detriment to the claimant the courtroom ought to use whichever treatment imposes the least burden on the defendant.

Whereas he doesn’t imagine that Scarman LJ meant to put down any normal rules when utilizing, the phrase “the minimal fairness to do justice” has since been used many occasions to indicate a normal utility. To do justice to the defendant requires the courtroom to not award a treatment which is extra beneficiant to the claimant and extra burdensome to the defendant than is critical to realize the underlying objective for which the treatment is granted.

He concluded, like Lord Briggs, that the courtroom of first occasion didn’t correctly estimate the claimant’s reliability on the loss and Lord Leggat due to this fact offered his personal calculation within the appendix to the judgment which resulted in a sum of £610,000 to be awarded to the claimant. Within the authentic judgment the claimant was to be awarded round £1.3m.


Following the bulk judgment, the legislation has now been clarified in relation to the correct treatment for a declare of proprietary estoppel. Nevertheless, resulting from the truth that it was a slim cut up determination with two very persuasive judgments the UKSC might not have succeeded of their purpose to settle the energetic debate that was referenced in each judgments.

The important thing takeaway for claimants and practitioners alike is that circumstances in relation to proprietary estoppel will probably be extremely truth particular. Whereas the take a look at set out by Lord Briggs will probably be very useful steering going ahead the query whether or not or not the achievement of the complete promise is proportionate will probably be key.

Moreover, as seen by the result of this case the courtroom will probably be at pains to make sure a good consequence for all events concerned and check out to make sure that the defendant additionally doesn’t endure unnecessarily.

Lastly, when deciding the treatment, cautious consideration must be taken when there’s an acceleration of the promise. In these circumstances, each judgments agree, an applicable low cost within the award must be made.

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