Davey v Bailey [2021] EWHC 445 (Ch)


Area of law:

Alex Troup

26 February 2021

Judgment was handed down today in the case of Davey v. Bailey [2021] EWHC 445 (Ch), in which Alex Troup, instructed by Graham Evans & Partners, acted for the successful Defendants.

The Claimants contended that a deceased couple had made no less than three gifts to them by way of donatio mortis causa (“DMC”), otherwise known as deathbed gifts. The first two alleged DMCs were of substantial quantities of cash, and were allegedly evidenced by a MacMillan Checklist which had been completed by the deceased couple at a time when the wife was terminally ill with cancer. The third was based on the fact that the husband, after the wife’s death, had handed a metal box file to one of the Claimants containing the title deeds to the matrimonial home.

The claim was dismissed. The Judge, HHJ Jarman QC, stated that, whilst he had some sympathy for the Claimants, the strict requirements for a valid deathbed gift were not all met in any of the three claimed gifts. Tantalisingly, the Judge left open the question whether it is legally possible to make a DMC of registered land, a question on which there is no reported authority.

The case is a good example of the rigorous approach which the courts are now taking to DMC claims in light of the Court of Appeal’s decision in King v. Chiltern Dog Rescue [2016] Ch 221.