Latest proprietary estoppel case - more problems down at the family farm

The latest proprietary estoppel case involving Somerset farmers can be seen to give a degree of encouragement to other potential claimants. However, it is certainly not the case that claimants will necessarily be awarded the entire value of the asset they say they were promised: see Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch).

Although the claimant in this case was seeking the entire farm, value approx. £2.5m, the evidence showed that the quantified ‘detriment’ that she had suffered over the years was considerably less, around £220,000. The judge decided that valuing the claim on the basis of the detriment (underpayment and long hours) she had suffered was not equitable and that instead the claimant should be awarded something closer in value to the asset that she had expected to receive, namely the value of a working dairy farm. On the valuation evidence before the court, it was held that the sum of £1.17m would be the appropriate award to enable her to acquire a viable dairy farm. So although claimants can be encouraged by the starting point that they should be compensated by reference to what they were promised and did not get, rather than simply the detriment they suffered, the court might well still conclude that the value of the appropriate award is considerably less than the actual farm that is in dispute.