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The Limits of Proprietary Estoppel: Thorner v Major [2009] CFLQ 367

Date:26 SEP 2011

In Thorner v Major, the House of Lords upheld the proprietary estoppel claim of a Somerset farmer who had worked without pay on his cousin's farm on the strength of oblique assurances that he would inherit the property. The decision raises complex issues relating to the requirement of a representation in the law of proprietary estoppel. In addition, Thorner is of wider significance in that it appears to indicate a retreat from the restrictive approach to proprietary estoppel favoured by the House of Lords in Yeoman's Row Management Ltd v Cobbe in 2008. However, in Thorner, Lord Scott did not explicitly resile from the views he had expressed in Cobbe and, in fact, made certain observations on the relationship between proprietary estoppel and ‘the remedial constructive trust' which appear likely to create further confusion.

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