Dyson Holdings Ltd v Fox: CA 17 Oct 1975

The defendant had lived with the tenant for 21 years until his death. They were unmarried and had no children. Reversing the County Court judge, the Court of Appeal ruled that she was a member of his family. It was absurd to distinguish between two couples on the basis that one had children and the other did not. (Lord Denning) and ‘The popular meaning given to the word ‘family’ is not fixed once and for all time. I have no doubt that with the passage of years it has changed. The cases reveal that it is not restricted to blood relationships and those created by the marriage ceremony. It can include de facto as well as de jure relationships. The popular meaning of ‘family’ in 1975 would, according to the answer of the ordinary man, include the defendant as a member of Mr. Wright’s family. This is not to say that every mistress should be so regarded. Relationships of a casual or intermittent character and those bearing indications of impermanence would not come within the popular concept of a family unit.’ per James LJ, and ‘Now, it is, I think, not putting it too high to say that between 1950 and 1975 there has been a complete revolution in society’s attitude to unmarried partnerships of the kind under consideration. Such unions are far commoner than they used to be. The social stigma that once attached to them has almost, if not entirely, disappeared. The inaccurate but expressive phrases ‘common law wife’ and ‘common law husband’ have come into general use to describe them. The ordinary man in 1975 would, in my opinion, certainly say that the parties to such a union, provided it had the appropriate degree of apparent permanence and stability, were members of a single family whether they had children or not.’ (Bridge LJ)

Lord Denning MR, James LJ, Bridge LJ
[1976] QB 503, [1975] EWCA Civ 8
England and Wales
DisapprovedGammans v Ekins CA 1950
The plaintiff had lived with a woman tenant for over 20 years and they had been regarded in the neighbourhood as man and wife.
Held: He could not thereby be deemed a member of her family for the Act of 1920. If their relationship was sexual . .

Cited by:
Confined to its factsHelby v Rafferty CA 1979
The court declined to hold that a man who had lived with a woman tenant for five years before her death were part of the same family because they had deliberately opted to retain their formal independence and they had not been recognised as being . .
Confined to its factsWatson v Lucas CA 1980
A woman who had lived with a man, although he remained married to his wife, was a member of his family for the purpose of Schedule 1 to the Act of 1977 because of the lasting relationship between them. . .
CitedCarega Properties SA (formerly Joram Developments Ltd) v Sharratt HL 1979
A widow aged 75 had developed a platonic relationship with a young man aged 24. He lived in her flat for nearly 20 years until she died. They treated themselves as aunt and nephew. The trial judge held that through their relationship this elderly . .
CitedFitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd HL 28-Oct-1999
Same Sex Paartner to Inherit as Family Member
The claimant had lived with the original tenant in a stable and long standing homosexual relationship at the deceased’s flat. After the tenant’s death he sought a statutory tenancy as a spouse of the deceased. The Act had been extended to include as . .
CitedSecretary of State for Work and Pensions v M HL 8-Mar-2006
The respondent’s child lived with the estranged father for most of each week. She was obliged to contribute child support. She now lived with a woman, and complained that because her relationship was homosexual, she had been asked to pay more than . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Housing

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.215911