Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Promises in law

Applicable law

Situations like that raised by the hypothetical case are commonly resolved using the law of ‘proprietary estoppel’. For our purposes, we will assume that the Proprietary Estoppel Act 2023 applies. 1 This Act contains the following provisions: Section 1: Objects of Act (1) ( Objects ) The object of this Act is to declare the law of proprietary estoppel and provide a statutory scheme by which: (a) courts can ameliorate or prevent the detriment that would be suffered by persons who change their position in reliance on the assurance of another; and (b) persons can be prevented from insisting upon their strict legal rights when it is unconscientious for them to do so. (2) ( Saving ) Subject to this Act, the law of proprietary estoppel remains in force. Section 2: Establishing a claim under this Act (1) ( Elements ) A person (‘the claimant’) establishes a claim under this section if: (a) ( assurance ) another person (‘the defendant’) made an assurance to the claimant; (b) ( reliance ) the claimant reasonably relied upon that assurance; (d) ( repudiation ) the defendant has repudiated, or is about to repudiate, the defendant’s assurance; and (c) ( detriment ) by reason of the claimant’s reliance, the claimant has suffered or will suffer detriment if the defendant is permitted to repudiate the assurance. (2) ( Definitions ) For the purpose of this Act: (a) the defendant makes an ‘ assurance’ if: (i) the defendant made a representation or promise to the claimant that the claimant had or would acquire an interest in the defendant’s land; or (ii) the defendant knew that the claimant held a mistaken belief that the claimant had an interest in the defendant’s land and the defe ndant unreasonably failed to correct that belief; (b) a claimant has ‘ relied ’ upon an assurance if the assurance caused the claimant to act or abstain from acting in a particular manner; (c) ‘ detriment ’ includes the expenditure of money; (d) ‘ repudiation’ means that the defendant has, by words or conduct, manifested an intention that the defendant will no longer act consistently with assurance.

Section 3: Remedies

(1) ( Discretionary power to grant relief ) If a claim is established under this Act: (a) a court may, in its discretion, make such orders as it thinks just and appropriate in the circumstances, including the orders set out in sub-section (3); and (b) such orders may be granted subject to such conditions as the court thinks are just and appropriate in the circumstances. (2) ( Purpose of remedy ) If a claim is established under this Act, the purpose of granting relief under this Act is to deal with the unconscionability of the defendant’s actual or anticipated repudiation of the assurance. (3) ( Orders ) A court may order, among other things, that: (a) the defendant pay compensation to the claimant assessed: (i) by reference to the value of the assurance; or (ii) by reference to the value of detriment sustained by the claimant. (b) the defendant render an account of profits obtained from the land; (c) the defendant transfer ownership of land to the claimant;

1 This legislation is fictitious.


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