In recent years there has been a procession of farming proprietary estoppel cases, the most famous of which was probably Davies v Davies
 EWCA Civ 463,  1 FLR 1286 with the claimant in that case capturing the media’s attention as the ‘Cowshed Cinderella’.
On 11 June 2018 Mr Justice Birss, sitting in Bristol, handed down judgment on the latest, the case of Gee v Gee & Anor
 EWHC 1393 (Ch),  All ER (D) 58 (Jun).
The case concerned a farm in Oxfordshire known as ‘Denham Farm’. The farm and the business are currently worth about £8m. However, if any significant part of the land becomes development land then it will be worth considerably more. In the meantime, the farm continues to produce mostly wheat and barley.
The first defendant, and original owner of the farm, was John Richard Gee (JR), who is now in his eighties. The second defendant was Robert Gee (Robert), one of JR’s three children.
The claimant was John Michael Gee (JM), another of JR’s children.
JM started working on the farm in the 1970s. He had worked there all of his working life, until 2016 when his employment was terminated, ostensibly for gross misconduct. Initially he lived in a caravan on site, but a few years later JR arranged for a house, ‘Baxters’, to be built on the farm, where JM has lived ever since.
JR owned the vast majority of the shareholding in the business and assets. In November 2014 he transferred all of his property and holdings to Robert. At the same time JR’s wife, Pamela, transferred her minority shareholding (the remainder of the shares) to JM. A dispute then ensued.
JM argued that, since when he was about 30 years old, JR repeatedly assured him that he would receive ‘the lion’s share’ of the farm. He said that he had relied on those representations to his detriment, essentially by spending his working life on the farm, working long hours for low wages.
JM provided six particular situations where he said he could remember that specific representations were made, including one instance where JR was said to have told JM that he could undertake certain building work on the farm ‘when it’s yours’.
The defendants denied JM’s claim entirely, denying that any assurances were ever made and, alternatively, that in any event JM had not suffered any detriment.