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Patel v Ali [1984] 1 All ER 978

Contract law – Vendor and purchaser of property – Contractual agreement

Facts

The first and second defendants were joint owners of a property and contracted to sell it to the plaintiffs. The husband of the first defendant was declared bankrupt during the process of the sale and his trustee sought an injunction to restrict completion. The bankruptcy court allowed the sale on the basis that the trustee would prosecute his claim on the proceeds of the sale. The plaintiffs issued a writ for specific performance but could not serve it on the second defendant as they had left the country. The first defendant, at this time, was very ill after a series of serious health issues and was heavily dependent on relatives and friends to run the home. An order of specific performance of the contract was ordered by the court. The plaintiff’s appealed on the basis of the hardship that would be caused to the first defendant.

Issue

Based on the unique facts of the scenario, the court was required to establish whether an order of specific performance or damages would be more appropriate in relation to the first defendant’s circumstances.

Held

The court found that in instances of the sale of property or land, the remedy of specific performance was often withheld on the proof of special facts and that the court was justified in refusing specific performance on the grounds of hardship. In light of the current scenario, it was held that forcing the sale of the property would inflict hardship to the first defendant which amounted to injustice. Therefore the order was dismissed and damages were awarded to the plaintiffs.


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