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Wayling v Jones [1995] 2 FLR 1029; (1995) 69 P & CR 170

Proprietary estoppel and the nature of reliance.

Facts:

The claimant, Wayling was in a homosexual relationship with his partner, Jones. For several years he worked at Jones’s businesses but was never paid a proper salary. Jones made a will leaving a particular hotel to the claimant. This hotel was later sold and a different hotel was bought. Jones promised the claimant that he would get the new hotel. However, when Jones died the will left nothing to Jones. The claimant claimed the hotel on the basis of proprietary estoppel. The trial judge dismissed the claim. The claimant appealed.

Issues:

To establish proprietary estoppel it must be shown that the landowner made a promise that the claimant would acquire an interest in the land which the claimant relied upon to his detriment. Wayling admitted he would have stayed with Jones even if no promises had been made. Jones’s personal representatives argued this meant the claimant had not relied upon the defendant’s promises.  

Held:

The Court of Appeal found for the claimant. Wayling had worked for almost nothing. Therefore, he had acted to his detriment. InGreasley v Cooke [1980] 1 WLR 1306 it was held that once a promise is made from which an inducement may be inferred the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to show the claimant did not in fact rely on the promise. The promise does not need to be the sole inducement for the claimant’s conduct. Wayling stated that he would have left Jones’s employ if no promise had been made. Therefore, the defendant had not discharged the burden of proof to show that there was in fact no reliance on the promise. 


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