Thorner v Major and others [2009] 1 WLR 776

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Judith Bray


PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL: A NEW CHAPTER DAWNS?The decision of the Court of Appeal in Thorner v Major1 briefly constructed an almost impossible strait-jacket around potential claimants under proprietary estoppel, reminiscent of the way the strict requirements under the Willmot v Barber2 probanda had earlier limited such claims3. The Court of Appeal held in Thorner v Major4 that an assurance of rights had to be clear and unequivocal in order to give rise to property rights and on the facts of this case the assurances had been too vague to give rise to such rights. In an area of law based on informality and often vague promises it appeared that the law was now in retrenchment and was reasserting the need for very strict limitations on the circumstances in which property claims under proprietary estoppel could arise.

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