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Consideration: Estoppel

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Consideration: Estoppel

[Flash Card 1 of 3]

  • consideration usually required to make promise enforceable / if no consideration provided estoppel may help promisee enforce promise if he acted on promise to his detriment
  • Lord Birkenhead: acted upon such belief to his prejudice (Maclaine v Gatty [1921])

Estoppel by representation

  • promisor estopped from acting inconsistently with representation of fact / if other detrimentally acted in reliance
  • debt bond / P relied on D statement of intent / insufficient must be representation of fact not opinion or intention (Jorden v Money (1854))

Promissory estoppel

  • equitable doctrine / enforces promise to waive legal rights / even if no consideration

Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd [1947]

  • P let flats to D / 99 yr lease / £2500 per yr
  • wartime: evacuation / D not cover rent / P agreed halve rent / after war: D let all flats / P wanted D resume paying full rent / D refused
  • held: future representation (promise to suspend P's right to full rent during war) / P intent to create legal relations & knew would be relied upon so enforceable / only while conditions prevailed / post war P could claim full rent
  • key elements: promise to waive strict legal rights / intent create legal relations & to be acted upon by other / reliance on promise (not necessarily detrimental) / shield not sword
  • Denning (obiter): if P tried claim rent for war would fail
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Consideration: Estoppel

[Flash Card 2 of 3]

Promissory estoppel


  • reliance does not have to be detrimental
  • sufficient: altered position or impossible promisee resume original position ( Ajayi v Briscoe [1964] )
  • Lord Denning: ..all that is required is that one should have 'acted on the belief induced by the other party'... (WJ Alan & Co v El Nasr [1972])

Extinctive or suspensory

  • ongoing payments: existing obligations (rent in High Trees) extinctive / future obligations suspensory
  • D manufactured items using P's patent / P agreed not claim royalties during war / after war sought resume / held: P revive right with reasonable notice (Tool Metal Manufacturing v Tungsten Electric [1955])
  • D gave P to make repairs within 6 months / if not would forfeit lease / negotiations for sale broke down / P not made repairs in 6 months / D regarded lease forfeited / held: P equitable relief / negotiations suspended notice period (Hughes v Metropolitan Railway Company (1877))
  • as Hughes relied upon to develop doctrine in High Trees / gives strength to argument estoppel is primarily suspensory not extinctive

Shield not a sword

  • promissory estoppel acts as a shield not a sword
  • D promised P £100 per yr maintenance / P better finances than D / 6 yrs later P sued for arrears / held: promissory estoppel not create action / P only able to sue if provided consideration ( Combe v Combe [1951] )
bits of law

Consideration: Estoppel

[Flash Card 3 of 3]

Promissory estoppel


  • maxim: he who comes to equity must come with a clean hands
  • D owed P £482 / offered £300 in settlement because knew P in financial trouble / P agreed begrudgingly & later sued for balance / held: promissory estoppel not defence / not inequitable for P to go back on promise as not freely given ( D & C Builders Ltd v Rees [1966])

One-off payments

  • promissory estoppel only been invoked in cases of continuing obligations (rent or maintenance) / not for one-off payment (pre-existing debt)
  • Lord Denning (obiter) D & C Builders Ltd v Rees [1966] / suggested possible to apply promissory estoppel to debt / if debtor acted equitably / possible conflict with earlier decisions
  • conflict Foakes v Beer (1884): decision upheld obiter principle in Pinnel's Case (1602): if a fixed sum is owed then payment of a lesser sum can never be satisfaction for the full amount owed if no consideration provided (eg early payment or additional goods)
  • reconciled remarks in D & C Builders v Rees: obiter / Denning not argue a creditor should never be allowed to enforce payment of the balance / merely should be limited inequitable / creditor was entitled as equitable on facts
  • High Trees decision more easily reconciled with Foakes v Beer: promissory estoppel suspends debtor's obligation to pay rather than extinguish creditor's right to balance / if in reliance on creditor's promise to accept part payment debtor spends money he would have used to pay balance may be inequitable for creditor to go back on promise
bits of law
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