Lord Cranstown v Johnston: 1796

Lord Cranstown was the absentee owner of a valuable estate in a Caribbean island, but he owed the defendant Johnston a modest amount of money. Johnston sued for the money to be brought in the local court, whose laws permitted a form of substituted service. He nailed the writ on a post and on the courthouse door. Thus, as Johnston had intended all along, Lord Cranstown received no actual notice of the proceedings. Judgment was given by default, the estate was put up for auction to satisfy the judgment, and Johnston, who was the only bidder, acquired the property for the amount of the debt, which was far less than the value of the estate. From beginning to end Johnston uttered no false representation to anyone, nor did he violate any law of the island, nor did he owe any contractual obligation to Lord Cranstown; but he did know that he was going behind Lord Cranstown’s back in getting the estate for a pittance. Lord Cranstown brought suit in England to recover the estate.
Held: Although he would not question the jurisdiction of the foreign court, or the regularity of its proceedings, and although he would not presume that the local laws would set aside the transaction, it was a fraud all the same according to English rules of equity, and that the defendant Johnston must restore the estate upon being repaid the original debt and expenses.


Arden MR


(1796) 3 Ves 170


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedR Griggs Group Ltd and others v Evans and others (No 2) ChD 12-May-2004
A logo had been created for the claimants, by an independent sub-contractor. They sought assignment of their legal title, but, knowing of the claimant’s interest the copyright was assigned to a third party out of the jurisdiction. The claimant . .
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Updated: 13 May 2022; Ref: scu.199521