Goldsworthy v Brickell: CA 1987

The plaintiff had granted a tenancy of his substantial farm to the first defendant, and made him a partner. The first defendant later bought out the plaintiff who was in turn later reconciled with his only son who had previously had some considerable involvement with the farm. The plaintiff gave a general power to the son who now sought to set aside the transactions as having been obtained by undue influence.
Held: A presumption of undue influence could be raised where the gift was so large or improvident that it could not be accounted for from mere friendship. Equity has refused to put limits on what is to be held to be a fiduciary relationship and to which the presumption of undue influence can apply. There has to exist a degree of trust and confidence such that: (Nourse LJ) ‘The party in whom it is reposed, either because he is or has become an adviser of the other or because he has become entrusted with the management of his affairs or every day needs or for some other reason, is in a position to influence him into effecting the transaction of which complaint is later made.’ and acquiescence in its proper sense involves ‘a standing by so as to induce the other party to believe that the wrong is assented to.’
Parker LJ said: ‘Upon whatever precise basis it is sought to uphold a transaction which was originally obtained by undue influence it is an essential ingredient that it would be inequitable to allow the influenced party to set aside the transaction.’
Nourse LJ also said: ‘Undue influence is of two kinds: (1) express or, as it is nowadays more usually known, actual undue influence, and (2) that which in certain circumstances is presumed from a confidential relationship; by which in this context is meant a relationship wherein one party has ceded such a degree of trust and confidence as to require the other, on grounds of public policy, to show that it has not been betrayed or abused. In cases where there is no confidential relationship actual undue influence must be proved. In cases where there is such a relationship it is sometimes alleged, but need not be proved and may never have occurred. Occasionally, even where there is no direct evidence of influence, it is found that there is both a confidential relationship and actual undue influence . . ‘ and ‘ . . Because they have occasioned little or no debate on this appeal, three further general observations may be briefly made. First, it is not every relationship of trust and confidence to which the presumption applies. No generalisation is possible beyond the definition already attempted. Secondly, with relationships to which it does apply the presumption is not perfected and remains inoperative until the party who has ceded the trust and confidence makes a gift so large, or enters into a transaction so improvident, as not to be reasonably accounted for on the ground of friendship, relationship, charity or other ordinary motives on which ordinary men act. Although influence might have been presumed beforehand, it is only then that it is presumed to have been undue. Thirdly, in a case where the presumption has come into operation the gift or transaction will be set aside, unless it is proved to have been the spontaneous act of the donor or grantor acting in circumstances which enable him to exercise an independent will and which justify the court in holding that the gift or transaction was the result of a free exercise of his will.’


Nourse LJ, Parker LJ


[1987] Ch 378, [1987] 2 WLR 133


Agricultural Holdings Act 1948 8


England and Wales


AppliedAiden Shipping Co Ltd v Interbulk Ltd (The ‘Vimeira’) HL 1986
Wide Application of Costs Against Third Party
A claim had been made against charterers by the ship owners, and in turn by the charterers against their sub-charterers. Notice of motion were issued after arbitration awards were not accepted. When heard, costs awards were made, which were now . .
CitedIn re Craig, Decd 1971
Undue influence was found to have been exercised by a secretary companion over her elderly employer. . .

Cited by:

CitedX v Y, Z sub nom In re E (Enduring power of attorney) ChD 18-Feb-2000
The application was an appeal against an order registering an enduring power of attorney. The appeal from Master Lush was by way of rehearing. The donor had executed two powers. The second was invalid, and the donees of the first power sought to . .
CitedBillington (By Billington Her Next Friend) Billington, Warburton v Blackshaw CA 16-Dec-1997
The court had set aside a conveyance at an undervalue by a mother to one of her children. There was evidence to doubt her capacity at the time.
Held: There was evidence of senile dementia, and the presumption applied. The judge had dealt . .
CitedDe Wind v Wedge ChD 19-Mar-2008
Brother and sister contested the devolution of their mother’s house. The sister had fallen into debt and been given much financial assistance by other members of the family. The brother said that to rebalance that, the mother had given the house to . .
CitedBrown 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.

Equity, Undue Influence, Landlord and Tenant

Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.182897