Culliford v Thorpe [2018] EWHC 426 (Ch)

Adam Boyle

6 July 2018

Adam represented the claimants in this proprietary estoppel/constructive trust case decided by HHJ Matthews sitting in the High Court in Bristol. The case received media attention as a result of the finding that a relatively informal exchange/agreement between two unmarried partners could (once detrimental reliance was added in) give rise to a constructive trust/estoppel in circumstances where one of the partners died and many facets of the deal/agreement between the parties were not carried out.

The case raised numerous issues including: 1) the status of the COA case of Gallarotti v Sebastianelli [2012] EWCA Civ 865 and more generally the correct approach to constructive trust cases when planned-deals don’t come off; 2) the status of the once-definitive HOL case Lloyds Bank plc v Rosset [1991] 1 AC 107 when viewed through the lens of the later case of Stack v Dowden [2007] 2 AC 432 (in the sole-name constructive trust context); 3) how to treat substantial countervailing benefits in such cases; 4) the correct approach to agreements founded on a common mistake when a party seeks to rely on the court’s equitable jurisdiction to enforce such an agreement.