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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Goodchild v Bradbury  EWCA Civ 1868
Undue influence; presumption; gift of land
Goodchild was elderly. He owned some agricultural land. He gave plot – next to his house – to his nephew, Bradbury (who lived with him) as a wedding present. Bradbury’s friend (also a defendant) helped to arrange the transaction by introducing Goodchild and Bradbury to a solicitor. The solicitor gave Goodchild legal advice in a separate room. The draft transfer had a covenant, which limited the land’s development to the construction of six dwelling houses. Goodchild approved the draft but subsequently had a stroke – despite this, the transaction was finalised. Bradbury then sold the land to his friend. Goodchild sought to set aside both transactions.
Goodchild argued that the first transaction was facilitated by undue influence and Bradbury’s friend knew of this fact before the second transaction took place. The solicitor who consulted Goodchild gave evidence that Goodchild did not pay attention to his advice and did not appear to be under any undue pressure. Goodchild admitted that he did not feel pressured to give away a piece of land to Bradbury. It was also shown that the development would significantly reduce the land’s value. The judge determined that there was no undue influence in the first transaction as Goodchild, by his own admission, did not feel pressured. Goodchild appealed.
The Court found in favour of Goodchild based on his vulnerability. The relationship between the elderly uncle and the nephew had the potential for abuse. Thus, and as the gifting of land was not inevitable, Bradbury had to show that Goodchild understood and intended the transaction. This had to be done by proving Goodchild’s full, free and informed consent to the first transaction. Goodchild’s witness statement did not make the need for full, free and informed consent irrelevant. As a result, the first transfer had to be nullified. As there was not enough evidence to disprove the friend’s knowledge of the first transaction’s circumstances, the second transaction was also set aside.
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