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Promissory Estoppel Notes

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This is an extract of our Promissory Estoppel document, which we sell as part of our GDL Contract Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students.

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PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL

This is equity's evasion of the rule in Pinnel's case. This was established by Lord Denning in Central London Property Trust v
High Trees House [1947].
Hughes v Metropolitan Railway Co (1877) - Tenant had covenanted to keep the premises in a state of good repair. Landlord gave tenant six months to carry out some repairs. During this time began negotiations re the purchase of the lease, making it clear that repairs deferred during negotiations. Negotiations collapsed and landlord brought possession proceedings.
o Held that period for repairs to take place did not run while negotiations were ongoing.
o Lord Cairns: negotiations leading to one party supposing rights will not be enforced, the person who otherwise might have enforced those rights will not be allowed to enforce them where it would be inequitable having regard to the dealings which have thus taken place between the parties.
Birmingham and District Land v LNWR (1888) - Bowen LJ:
person induced by conduct to believe that certain rights will not be enforced, those persons will not be allowed by a court of equity to enforce the rights until such time has elapsed, without at all events placing the parties in the same position as they were before.
Central London Property Trust v High Trees House [1947] -
WW2 meant that leaseholder was struggling to fill flats. Landlord agreed to lower the ground rent 'for the duration of the war.' In 1945 with all of the flats full the landlord sought to resurrect the original agreement, and sued for the full ground rent since the time that all the flats had been let.
o Denning J held that the rent was recoverable.
o obiter Denning held that if the plaintiffs had sued for all the ground rent held back during the period, they would have been prevented from doing so by the rule in Hughes's case.
Denning's Estoppel:
o Estoppel is essentially a rule of evidence which prevents a witness giving evidence which would be relevant if adduced,
but which for reasons of fairness ought not to be adduced.
 In Jordan v Money HoL held that estoppel in common law must be based on a statement of fact not a promise,
Denning treads carefully around this.
o As a result of Hughes, a promise, even though unsupported by consideration, can be set up as a defence to an action for breach of contract.
 Dennign explains that in Foakes v Beer estoppel was overlooked due to the (then recent) fusion of law and equity

Treitel argues that the House of Lords in Foakes v Beer was not likely to have been unaware of Hughes' Case, since it had been decided only seven years earlier and involved two of the judges who also sat in Foakes v Beer.

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