Paragon Finance Plc (Formerly Known As National Home Loans Corporation Plc v D B Thakerar and Co (a Firm); Ranga and Co (a Firm) and Sterling Financial Services Limited: CA 21 Jul 1998

Where an action had been begun on basis of allegations of negligence and breach of trust, new allegations of fraud where quite separate new causes of claim, and went beyond amendments and were disallowed outside the relevant limitation period. Sections 23 and 36 and the absence of express statutory mention in the 1980 Act of actions for breach of fiduciary duty do not mean that a claim for an account of profits in respect of a breach of fiduciary duty is outside the scope of the Act altogether and is free of any period of limitation. Unless the account sought is of property subject to a trust, a claim for an account in equity will be based on legal rights. In the case of an action for an account by a principal against an agent, where the claim is based on a contractual relationship. Even if the relationship is not contractual, but is exclusively equitable, a limitation period may be applied by the court under s 36 by analogy in the light of the position before 1 July 1940. There were two different types of constructive trust in respect of which an account can be claimed in equity and to which different considerations apply on questions of limitation: ‘The first covers those cases already mentioned, where the defendant, though not expressly appointed as trustee, has assumed the duties of a trustee by a lawful transaction which was independent of and preceded the breach of trust and is not impeached by the plaintiff. The second covers those cases where the trust obligation arises as a direct consequence of the unlawful transaction which is impeached by the plaintiff.’
The court considered the nature of a constructive trust. Millett LJ said: ‘A constructive trust arises by operation of law whenever the circumstances are such that it would be unconscionable for the owner of property (usually but not necessarily the legal estate) to assert his own beneficial interest in the Property and deny the beneficial interest of another.’ There are two kinds of constructive trust: ‘A constructive trust arises by operation of law whenever the circumstances are such that it would be unconscionable for the owner of property (usually but not necessarily the legal estate) to assert his own beneficial interest in the property and deny the beneficial interest of another. In the first class of case . . the constructive trustee really is a trustee. He does not receive the trust property in his own right but by a transaction by which both parties intend to create a trust from the outset and which is not impugned by the plaintiff. His possession of the property is coloured from the first by the trust and confidence by means of which he obtained it, and his subsequent appropriation of the property to his own use is a breach of that trust. Well-known examples of such a constructive trust are McCormick v Grogan (1869) LR 4 HL (a case of a secret trust) and Rochefoucald v Boustead[1897] 1 Ch 196 (where the defendant agreed to buy property for the plaintiff but the trust was imperfectly recorded). Pallant v Morgan [1952] 2 All ER 951, [1953] Ch 43 (where the defendant sought to keep for himself property which the plaintiff trusted him to buy for both parties) is another. In these cases the plaintiff does not impugn the transaction by which the defendant obtained control of the property. He alleges that the circumstances in which the defendant obtained control make it unconscionable for him thereafter to assert a beneficial interest in the Property.
The second class of case is different. It arises when the defendant is implicated in a fraud. Equity has always given relief against fraud by making any person sufficiently implicated in the fraud accountable in equity. In such a case he is traditionally though I think unfortunately described as a constructive trustee and said to be ‘liable to account as constructive trustee’. Such a person is not in fact a trustee at all, even though he may be liable to account as if he were. He never assumes the position of a trustee, and if he receives the trust property at all it is adversely to the plaintiff by an unlawful transaction which is impugned by the plaintiff. In such a case the expressions ‘constructive trust’ and ‘constructive trustee’ are misleading, for there is no trust and usually no possibility of a proprietary remedy; they are ‘nothing more than a formula for equitable relief’: Selangor United Rubber Estates Ltd v Cradock (No 3) [1968] 2 All ER 1073 at 1097, [1968] 1 WLR 1555 at 1582 per Ungoed-Thomas J. ‘
Millett LJ considered what was due diligence when looking at the discovery of a fraud for limitation: ‘The question is not whether the claimants should have discovered the fraud sooner; but whether they could with reasonable diligence have done so. The burden of proof is on them. They must establish that they could not have discovered the fraud without exceptional measures which they could not reasonably have been expected to take . . In the course of argument May LJ observed that reasonable diligence must be measured against some standard, but that the six-year limitation period did not provide the relevant standard. He suggested that the test was how a person carrying on a business of the relevant kind would act if he had adequate but not unlimited staff and resources and was motivated by a reasonable but not excessive sense of urgency. I respectfully agree.’


Millett LJ, Pill LJ, May LJ


Times 07-Aug-1998, Gazette 29-Jul-1998, Gazette 16-Sep-1998, [1998] EWCA Civ 1187, [1999] 1 All ER 400, [1998] EWCA Civ 1249


Bailii, Bailii


Limitation Act 1980 20 35(3) 35(4) 35(5)


England and Wales


CitedMara v Browne CA 17-Dec-1895
In a marriage settlement, the first defendant, a solicitor, advised the persons who were acting as trustees, though not yet formally appointed as such. He suggested a series improper of investments for the trust funds. The money was to be lent on . .
CitedSelangor United Rubber Estates Ltd v Cradock (No 3) ChD 1968
The expressions ‘constructive trust’ and ‘constructive trustee’ are ‘nothing more than a formula for equitable relief. It is the actual control of assets belonging beneficially to a company which causes the law to treat directors as analogous to . .
CitedMcCormick v Grogan HL 23-Apr-1869
C made a will leaving his property to G, and appointed him executor. When about to die C sent for G and in a private interview told him of the will, and G asked whether that was right. C said that he would not have it otherwise. C then told G where . .
CitedRochefoucald v Boustead CA 12-Dec-1896
A property was purchased by the defendant which the court found to have been on the basis as trustee for the plaintiff. The defendant resisted the plaintiff’s claim on the ground of, inter alia, absence of writing.
Held: This defence was . .
CitedPallant v Morgan ChD 1952
The agents of two neighbouring landowners orally agreed in the auction room that the plaintiff’s agent would refrain from bidding at auction and that the defendant, if his agent’s bid was successful, would divide the land according to an agreed . .

Cited by:

QuestionedBirmingham Midshires Building Society v Infields (A Firm) TCC 20-May-1999
The defendant solicitors had acted for the lenders and borrower in a mortgage transaction. The claimant sought repayment of the entire loan, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, in having preferred the interests of one client over those of another. . .
CitedDEG-Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH v Koshy and Other (No 3); Gwembe Valley Development Co Ltd (in receivership) v Same (No 3) CA 28-Jul-2003
The company sought to recover damages from a director who had acted dishonestly, by concealing a financial interest in a different company which had made loans to the claimant company. He replied that the claim was out of time. At first instance the . .
CitedThe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry v Goldberg, Mcavoy ChD 26-Nov-2003
The Secretary of State sought a disqualification order. The director argued that one shoul not be made in the absence of some breach of legal duty, some dishonesty should be shown.
Held: The answer was a mixture of fact and law. A breach of . .
CitedDubai Aluminium Company Limited v Salaam and Others HL 5-Dec-2002
Partners Liable for Dishonest Act of Solicitor
A solicitor had been alleged to have acted dishonestly, having assisted in a fraudulent breach of trust by drafting certain documents. Contributions to the damages were sought from his partners.
Held: The acts complained of were so close to . .
CitedBanner Homes Group Plc v Luff Developments and Another CA 10-Feb-2000
Competing building companies agreed not to bid against each other for the purchase of land. One proceeded and the other asserted that the land was then held on trust for the two parties as a joint venture.
Held: Although there was no formal . .
CitedThe Law Society v Sephton and Co and others CA 13-Dec-2004
The Society appealed dismissal for limitation of its claim against the defendant firm of accountants arising from alleged fraud in approval of a solicitor’s accounts.
Held: The liability did not arise until the Society decided to make . .
CitedTaylor Aston Ltd v AON Ltd ComC 26-Jul-2005
The parties entered into a contract to support attempts to provide insurance in Khazakstan. The defendants argued limitation, the claimants argued for concealment.
Held: Deliberate concealment for limitation purposes meant just that. That had . .
CitedTaylor Aston Ltd v AON Ltd ComC 26-Jul-2005
The parties entered into a contract to support attempts to provide insurance in Khazakstan. The defendants argued limitation, the claimants argued for concealment.
Held: Deliberate concealment for limitation purposes meant just that. That had . .
CitedIslamic Republic of Pakistan v Zardari and others ComC 6-Oct-2006
The claimant alleged that the defendants had funded the purchase of various properties by secret and unlawful commissions taken by them whilst in power in Pakistan. They sought to recover the proceeds. They now sought permission to serve proceedings . .
CitedDowson and Others v Northumbria Police QBD 30-Apr-2009
Nine police officers claimed damages for alleged harassment under the 1997 Act by a senior officer in having bullied them and ordered them to carry out unlawful procedures. Amendments were sought which were alleged to be out of time and to have . .
CitedNational Trust for Places of Historic Interest v Birden ChD 31-Jul-2009
The parties had entered into an old-form share farm agreement in 1994. The tenant later became a farm business tenant on other land. The claimant sought a share of the Single Payment Scheme calculated with reference to the period in which the . .
CitedWilliams v Central Bank of Nigeria QBD 8-Apr-2011
The claimant had been defrauded by a customer of the defendant bank. He brought a claim against the bank, saying that they knew or ought to have known of the fraudster’s activities, and were liable. The Bank denied that the UK courts had . .
CitedWilliams v Central Bank of Nigeria QBD 24-Jan-2012
The claimant asserted involvement by the defendant bank in a fraud perpetrated against him. Jurisdiction had already been admitted for one trust , and now the claimant sought to add two further claims.
Held: ‘None of the gateways to English . .
CitedWilliams v Central Bank of Nigeria SC 19-Feb-2014
Bank not liable for fraud of customer
The appellant sought to make the bank liable for a fraud committed by the Bank’s customer, the appellant saying that the Bank knew or ought to have known of the fraud. The court was asked whether a party liable only as a dishonest assistant was a . .
CitedStocker v Stocker QBD 10-Jun-2015
The claimant alleged defamation by his former wife in a post on facebook. The posting and associatedeEmails were said falsely to have accused him of serious abuse, and that the accusations had undermined his relationship with his new partner.
CitedHalton International Inc Another v Guernroy Ltd CA 27-Jun-2006
The parties had been involved in investing in an airline to secure its future, but it was now said that one party had broken the shareholders’ or voting agreement in not allowing further investments on a pari passu basis. The defendants argued that . .
CitedBoyse (International) Ltd v Natwest Markets Plc and Another ChD 27-May-2020
Claim alleging misselling of interest rate hedging products. The court considered the defendants strike out application, and applications for leave to amend pleadings.
Held: it will normally be appropriate for summary judgment to be pursued on . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Limitation, Professional Negligence, Trusts

Leading Case

Updated: 25 November 2022; Ref: scu.144666