The donor had parted with almost all her property. She now sought to have the transaction set aside for undue influence.
Held: Where a wife has entered into a gratuitous transaction with her husband, the burden was on the husband as donee to support the gift if it is so large as not to be reasonably accounted for on the ground of the relationship: Cotton LJ said: ‘the court interferes, not on the ground that any wrongful act has in fact been committed by the donee, but on the ground of public policy, and to prevent the relations which exist between the parties and the influence arising therefrom being abused.’
Lindley LJ said: ‘But if the gift is so large as not to be reasonably accounted for on the ground of friendship, relationship, charity, or other ordinary motives on which ordinary men act, the burden is upon the donee to support the gift.’
Bowen LJ The gifts should be set aside ‘unless it is shewn that the donor, at the time of making the gift, was allowed full and free opportunity for counsel and advice outside – the means of considering his or her worldly position and exercising an independent will about it.’ and ‘This is not a limitation placed on the action of the donor; it is a fetter placed upon the conscience of the recipient of the gift, and one which arises out of public policy and fair play.’
Lindley LJ ‘As no Court has ever attempted to define fraud so no Court has ever attempted to define undue influence, which includes one of its many varieties.’ He set out a first class of case: ‘There are the cases in which there has been some unfair and improper conduct, some coercion from outside, some over-reaching, some form of cheating, and generally, though not always, some personal advantage obtained by a donee placed in some close and confidential relation to the donor.’ ‘In this class of cases it has been considered necessary to show that the donor had independent advice, and was removed from the influence of the donee when the gift to him was made.’ and ‘The [the courts of Equity] have not shrunk from setting aside gifts made to persons in a position to exercise undue influence over the donors, although there has been no proof of the actual exercise of such influence; and the courts have done this on the avowed ground of the necessity of going this length in order to protect persons from the exercise of such influence under circumstances which render proof of it impossible. The courts have required proof of its non-exercise, and failing that proof, have set aside gifts otherwise unimpeachable.’ The mere existence of the influence is not enough: ‘But if the gift is so large as not to be reasonably accounted for on the ground of friendship, relationship, charity, or other ordinary motives on which ordinary men act, the burden is upon the donee to support the gift.’
Lindley LJ, Cotton LJ, Bowen LJ
(1887) 36 Ch D 145
England and Wales
Cited – Huguenin v Baseley 1807
When undue influence is alleged, the law will investigate the way the intention to enter into the transaction was secured. Lord Eldon LC said: ‘Take it that she (the plaintiff) intended to give it to him (the defendant): it is by no means out of the . .
Cited – Franklyn Dailey v Harriet Dailey PC 2-Oct-2003
PC (British Virgin Islands) The husband and wife had developed a business together. Transfers between the parties had taken place and there were suspicions about misappropriation of money.
Held: The . .
Cited – Hammond v Osborn and Another CA 27-Jun-2002
Where there was any relationship of trust and confidence between parties, and a substantial gift was made by the one in whom that trust was placed, there would be a presumption of undue influence. Undue influence is a matter of public policy. In a . .
Cited – Niersmans v Pesticcio CA 1-Apr-2004
A house have been given by a man with learning difficulties to her sister. The case appealed an order that undue influence had applied.
Held: The gift failed despite the attempt at independent legal advice. The court reviewed the law of undue . .
Cited – R v Her Majesty’s Attorney-General for England and Wales PC 17-Mar-2003
PC (From Court of Appeal of New Zealand) T had been a member of the British SAS. Other members had written books and the Army sought to impose confidentiality contracts or to impose a return to their unit. R . .
Cited – Royal Bank of Scotland v Etridge (No 2); Barclays Bank plc v Harris; Midland Bank plc v Wallace, etc HL 11-Oct-2001
Wives had charged the family homes to secure their husband’s business borrowings, and now resisted possession orders, claiming undue influence.
Held: Undue influence is an equitable protection created to undo the effect of excess influence of . .
Cited – Daniel v Drew CA 6-May-2005
The Aunt had succeeded in her claim that her retirement from a family trust of a farm had been procured by the undue influence of her nephew. The nephew now appealed. She had assigned her interest to her son, who then fell into disagreement about . .
Cited – Bank of Credit and Commerce International SA v Aboody CA 1989
In a case where the defendant said that a mortgage had been signed from undue pressure the court may find actual undue influence as opposed to presumed undue influence. Slade LJ said: ‘Ever since the judgments of this court in Allcard v Skinner a . .
Cited – Randall v Randall ChD 30-Jul-2004
The executor sought to set aside gifts made by the deceased, an elderly aunt before her death to his brother, alleging undue influence.
Held: The recipient had acted falsely in failing to declare overpayments of benefits. The deceased had been . .
Cited – Barraclough v Mell and others ChD 1-Dec-2005
Moneys due under a will had been misdistributed. The correct beneficiary sought repayment. The executor sought to rely upon a trustee exemption clause.
Held: the tustee exemption clause was effective to protect the executor as such. She had . .
Cited – CIBC Mortgages Plc v Pitt and Another HL 21-Oct-1993
Mrs Pitt resisted an order for possession of the house saying that she had signed the mortgage only after misrepresentations by and the undue infuence of her husband who was acting as the bank’s agent.
Held: A bank was not put on enquiry as to . .
Cited – Hewett v First Plus Financial Group Plc CA 24-Mar-2010
The appellant appealed against a mortgage possession order, saying that she had been misled into signing the charge by a non-disclosure by her husband of an extra-marital affair he was conducting. The bank had not met the standards set in Etridge, . .
Cited – Thompson v Foy ChD 20-May-2009
Lewison J discussed the decision in Etridge: ‘In the light of the arguments before me, there are some additional observations I should make. First, although in Etridge Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead described the paradigm case of a relationship where . .
Cited – Brown v Stephenson ChD 23-Aug-2013
The claimant sought to have set aside transfers and declarations of trust made by her in the defendant’s favour, saying that they had been given under his undue influence taking advantage of her dyslexia, and by bullying.
Held: The claims of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.187138