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Thorner v Major [2009]

Facts

  • The claimant had worked for the late-defendant’s estate for 30 years, unpaid
  • He believed that he would inherit the farm, following non-explicit but obvious communications from the defendant
  • Upon the defendant’s death, his estate passed by statue, not to the claimant

Issue

  • Could the transfer by statute be estopped by proprietary estoppel?

Decision

  • Yes, claim allowed

Reasoning

  • Although no clear assurances had been made, proprietary estoppel requires only that assurances are ‘clear enough’, they need not be ‘clear and unequivocal’
  • Proprietary estoppel can only operate on identified property, which may fluctuate in value
  • The judge’s ruling that the farm should be inherited was restored by the House of Lords
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