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Jones v Padavatton [1969] 1 WLR 328

Agreement for mother to maintain daughter; whether intention to create legal relations

Facts

A mother and daughter came to an arrangement whereby the mother agreed to maintain her daughter if she agreed to study for the bar. The daughter commenced her studies and the mother paid her an allowance. The arrangement was later altered and the mother agreed to provide a house in which her daughter could reside whilst she studied. Mother and daughter fell into dispute as to the occupancy of the house, and the mother sought possession. It was held the daughter was entitled to remain in possession and the mother appealed.

Issues

The daughter argued the agreement between herself and her mother amounted to a legally binding contract and, as such, she should be entitled to remain in occupation of the house. She claimed there had been an intention to create legal relations and she had provided consideration for her mother’s maintenance by studying for the bar. The mother argued there was merely an informal family arrangement, there had been no intention to create legal relations and she was, therefore, entitled to recover possession of the house. Even if there was an enforceable contract, she asserted the terms of the arrangement were too vague for the court to enforce.

Held

The mother’s appeal was successful and she was awarded possession. There is a presumption that family arrangements are based on mutual trust, family ties and affection, and that there is no intention to create legally binding contracts capable of enforcement in the courts. This presumption can be rebutted, but the lack of formality regarding the agreement between mother and daughter strongly indicated there was no such intention and the daughter had no defence to her mother’s claim for the house.


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