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Saunders v Anglia Building Soc

[1971] AC 1004

Case summary last updated at 02/01/2020 17:25 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Saunders v Anglia Building Soc

P wanted to make a gift of her interest in a house to X. X’s business partner, D1, got
her to sign a document that she couldn’t read (she lost her glasses) but she
signed when he had told her that it was a form gifting the house to X. In fact
it was to sell her interest to D1 for a sum which he never did nor intended to
pay, he mortgaged her house and defaulted, so that the bank, D2, from which he
took out the mortgage sough to repossess it. P sued D1 and D2, seeking a
declaration that the assignment was invalid due to non est factum. HL refused
her claim. Although a sale to X’s friend D1 was nto the same as a gift to X, the
purpose would not ahve been defeated had D1 actually done what he purported to
be doing and paid out the money to X.
Lord Reid: Non est factum is used to (1) to release someone where they did not
in fact sign the document or (2) allow someone who signed to claim it is not his
deed. Purpose 2 must be confined to narrow limits to maintain the strength of
the signature rule. E.g. those “unable to read owing to blindness or illiteracy
and who therefore had to trust someone to tell them what they were
signing. I think it must also apply in favour of those who are permanently or
temporarily unable through no fault of their own to have without explanation any
real understanding of the purport of a particular document, whether that be from
defective education, illness or innate incapacity.” However they still have to
take whatever precautions they reasonably can. There is a “heavy burden of
proof” on one seeking to invoke this remedy. There may be cases where, if
someone was led to believe that the document didn’t affect their rights then
they could use non est factum. “the essence of the plea non est factum is that
the person signing believed that the document he signed had one character or one
effect whereas in fact its character or effect was quite different... The amount
of information he must have and the sufficiency of the particularity of his
belief must depend on the circumstances of each case.” There has to be “a
radical difference” (defined by circumstances of each case) or between what P
was signing and what P thought he was signing

Lord Wilberforce: a document should be considered void where “consent is totally
lacking” or rather where “the transaction which the document purports to effect
is essentially different in substance or in kind from the one intended”. This
was not the case here. 

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