Can you sue for a broken promise? We look at the legal doctrine of proprietary estoppel
You can sue for a broken promise by using the legal doctrine of proprietary estoppel.
Proprietary estoppel claims can involve complicated law, so it is always best to seek specialist legal advice before embarking on a case. However, to give you a broad idea of the principle, a classic proprietary estoppel scenario involves these three essential components:
- a promise;
- reliance on that promise; and
- detriment suffered as a result.
The classic scenario that often goes to court involves a farming family where someone has been assured that if they work on the farm for little or no pay, then one day it will be left to them. That person, often a son or daughter, spends many years working hard on the expectation that they will inherit, sometimes giving up opportunities to earn a good living elsewhere. However, when the time comes they discover that they have been overlooked and another person inherits the farm.
Similar situations occur in relation to other types of family business.
So, going back to the three components for a successful proprietary estoppel claim, we have:
- The promise: You will inherit the farm if you work for little or no pay;
- The reliance: I therefore work hard on the farm for little or no pay ;
- The detriment: The farm is ultimately left to someone else and I miss out.
In these circumstance you can sue for a broken promise. By making a proprietary estoppel claim the court can force the promise to be upheld if it would be unfair for nothing to be done.
The court has the power to resolve the dispute in a number of ways. It can for instance order that property or assets are transferred or award monetary compensation.
How we can help
If you satisfy the three components and your financial loss exceeds £10,000 then we may be able to fund your case on a No Win, No Fee basis.
So, if you think proprietary estoppel applies in your situation and would like to know if you can sue for a broken promise then call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]