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Estoppel in Equity: Discussion of unification in Ireland Study Notes

Estoppel in Equity: Discussion of unification in Ireland Study Notes

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Published by Walter McJason

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Published by: Walter McJason on Dec 12, 2011
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05/04/2012

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ESTOPPEL
Proprietary Estoppel
The classic case here is
 Ramsden
v
 Dyson
(1866).Two limbs of proprietary estoppel emerge from this case1.
 
Mistake
 – 
Majority of speech by Lord Cranworth.2.
 
Expectation
Mistake Limb
Where landowner fails to intervene when he sees another person expending money on land inthe mistaken belief that it belongs to him, landowner will subsequently be estopped frominsisting on his strict legal rights.
 McMahon
v
Kerry County Council
[1981]
 
In this case there was a generous application of this limb.
 
Land that KCC sold to McM was meant to be a school.
 
Council built 2 houses on land.
 
McM noticed and told builders.
 
Built anyway and so McM claimed he was entitled to houses.
 
At the time there was a housing shortage so the policy behind this decision was thatthe judge did not want to give away 2 free houses.
 
Here the KCC got the land but had to buy a new piece for McM.
 
One could argue that although clearly a common sense approach, it was not a legallysound one.
 
This decision is criticized quite a lot.
Expectation Limb
Although he was in the minority, this stems from
Lord Kingsdown’s judgment
in Ramsden.
Smyth
 
v Halpin
[1997]
 
Here the son wanted to build a house so the dad suggested he build it on his land.
 
Son built a totally intergrated house extension.
 
Father died but left land to the sister.
 
Court found in favour of the son and he was given a fee simple remainder.
 
Sister enjoyed the land until the mother died so in the end he got what he was
 promised as he wouldn’t h
ave got the land until the mother had died anyway.
 
Carter v Ross (2000)
 
Interesting to compare this case to Smyth above.
 
Here the plaintiff was not successful.
 
The old man in this case met his nephew at a funeral.
 
Nephew moved back home for uncle but lived within driving distance.
 
He confronted the uncle after he was told that the uncle was going to leave the land tosomeone else.
 
Nephew brought action.
 
Representation was somewhat vague and detriment was not significant.
 
Court refused the action.
There must be assurance
This is a representation made with the intention that it will be relied upon.It can be express or implied but it must be clear.
 Ramsden v Dyson (1866)
There must be detrimental reliance
This is usually comprised of two parts, reliance and detriment.Reliance is established if a representation was calculated ti influence the judgement of areasonable man.It is the causal link between the assurance and detriment.As the case of 
Greasley v Cooke [1980]
noted, where assurance is established, reliance isgenerally assumed.
 
In this case, the plaintiff moved into the house as a maid.
 
She became a lover and an unpaid maid.
 
Took care of owner and daughter.
 
He promised she would always have a home however she was not taken care of in thewill.
 
There was clearly assurance and reliance but was there detriment?
 
Luckily it was Denning J in the court and the unpaid wages constituted detriment.Sometimes, a very generous approach is taken in Irish law on detriment. An example of this isthe case of 
 Re JR (A Ward of Court) [1993].
 
Questionable detriment here.
 
Couple met in psychiatric institution.
 
Man invited woman to live in his house rent free with financial support.
 
 
Man developed dementia and was moved into a home.
 
Where is the detriment? Costello J stated that she gave up a home somewherehowever this was neither proven nor specified.
 
Ignored the fact that she didn’t have to pay rent and got finances.
 
 
Maybe judge should have looked at the net detriment.A stricter approach to detriment is evident in the case of 
 McGuinness v McGuinness (2002)
where it was held that detriment must be pleaded and proven.
Remedies
There are numerous ways in which court may satisfy equity in favour of a claimant.In principle it seems that the remedy should normally seek to erase the detriment suffered bythe claimant, rather than to fulfill the expectation raised in the claimant.Although this does not seem to be the position in Ireland there seems to be a movement away.
Commonwealth of Australia
 
(1990).
The United States has taken a similar approach. And theEnglish position seems to be a half-way house.In the case of 
Jennings v Rice
 
[2002]
the court said that there should be proportionalitybetween detriment suffered and what you were getting out of the arrangement.
Willmott v Barber (1880)
 
Introduced restrictions known as the five
 probanda.
 
 
Seemed to restrict the proprietary estoppel to cases involving a mistake on the part of the claimantThe problem with this was clearly demonstrated in the decision of 
Cullen v Cullen [1962].
 
Father suffered from incipit paranioia, tried ti get him into an institution.
 
Fled to Dublin a contacted the family through priests.
 
Agreed to sign over land if family agreed not to send him away.
 
Family won a portable house and placed it on fathers land.
 
Land never transferred.
 
Court couldn’t apply Ramsey as son hadn’t made a mistake as to his legal rights.
 
 
Court resolved issue on basis of 
promissory estoppel.
 
 
As it can only be used as a shield, the court protected him by estopping the fatherform evicting the son.
 
After 12 years the son would get adverse possession of the land.The 5 probanda were effectively rejected in the case of 
Taylor Fashions (1982).
Here the
court said that the 5 probanda were not “universal” and instead focused on the notion of 
unconscionability that is that it would be unconscionable for a party to be permitted to denythat which knowingly or unknowingly he has allowed or encouraged another person toassume to his detriment.

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