Davies v Davies [2014] EWCA Civ 568

EVAN JOHN TEGWYN DAVIES and MARY EILEEN DAVIES

V

ELIZABETH EIRIAN DAVIES

Analysis

The appeal concerned a proprietary estoppel claim by the respondent, Eirian, with respect to her parents’ pedigree dairy farm.

Eirian’s claim was precipitated by the fact that her parents had sought to evict her from the farmhouse where she was living. Eirian had worked on Henllan during lengthy periods of her adult life. There were a number of arguments between Eirian and her parents which had, on occasion, led to Eirian temporarily leaving the farm. During one such period she worked as a technician for a company called Genus, which specialised in livestock reproduction services.

Eirian was promised by her parents that the farm would one day be hers. At first instance, HHJ Jarman QC held that the payments and benefits that Eirian had received from her parents did not amount to full compensation for her contribution to the farming business. He also found that had Eirian not worked on the farm, she would have made a better living elsewhere, such as Genus.

On 23 March 2013 District Judge Godwin made an order for certain factual issues to be tried as preliminary issues. However, the order made by HHJ Jarman after the trial of these preliminary factual issues went so far as to declare that Eirian ‘has established an entitlement to a beneficial interest in the farm and/or the farming business under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel’. It was accepted by the respondents that this order went further than justified by the order for the trial of preliminary issues if it was taken as establishing that the equity went as far as an entitlement to an immediate beneficial interest in the farm or farming business.

The respondents were content for the order to be amended so that the extent of the equity and the manner in which it was to be satisfied could be determined at a subsequent hearing. However, the central issues in the appeal were the threshold question of whether there was any reliance by Eirian, and whether there was a net detriment to her.

Held:

  1. 1) It was plainly open to the judge to find that Eirian had relied on the assurances of her parents.
  2. 2) The judge’s conclusion that the was a net detriment to Eirian was an evaluative exercise which he performed with care. It was not flawed in a way which merited any interference.
  3. 3) The order was amended so as to declare that under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel, Eirian was entitled to an equity, rather than an immediate beneficial interest, over the farm and/or farming business.

LJ FLOYD Introduction [1] This appeal arises in connection with a claim by the respondent, Eirian Davies, to be entitled to an interest in her parents’ pedigree dairy farm called Henllan in West Wales, or other equitable relief, based on the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. The parents, Tegwyn and Mary Davies, seek to evict Eirian …
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Counsel Details

Timothy Fancourt QC and Elizabeth Fitzgerald (Falcon Chambers, Falcon Court, London EC4Y 1AA, tel 020 7353 2484, email clerks@falcon-chambers.com) instructed by Michelmores LLP (12th Floor, 6 New St Square, London EC4A 3BF, tel 020 7659 7660, email enquiries@michelmores.com) for the appellants.

Leslie Blohm QC (St John’s Chambers, 01 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6PU, tel 0117 923 4700, email clerks@stjohnschambers.co.uk) instructed by Hugh James (114-116 St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1DY, tel 029 2022 4871) for the respondent.