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 one person over the will of another, though it should not always be presumed to arise from the existence of certain close relationships. A bank should be put on enquiry whenever a wife gives security for her husband’s debts, even where she may be jointly liable, or is a director. The independent advice given has often been superficial. The bank should take reasonable steps to satisfy itself that the wife has had brought home to her the practical implications of the proposed transaction. The solicitor should ensure that the wife properly understands the documentation and risks. He should explain that his involvement may mean that she cannot later challenge the charge. The advice should be given face to face, and in the absence of the husband. Provided the solicitor feels he can properly represent her interests, he may also act for the husband. The decision must be hers.
The court listed other steps to be taken by the bank and by the solicitors.
Lord Nicholls said: ‘Undue influence is one of the grounds of relief developed by the courts of equity as a court of conscience. The objective is to ensure that the influence of one person over another is not abused. In everyday life people constantly seek to influence the decisions of others. They seek to persuade those with whom they are dealing to enter into transactions, whether great or small. The law has set limits to the means properly employable for this purpose. To this end the common law developed a principle of duress. Originally this was narrow in its scope, restricted to the more blatant forms of physical coercion, such as personal violence. Here, as elsewhere in the law, equity supplemented the common law. Equity extended the reach of the law to other unacceptable forms of persuasion.’ and
‘the high degree of trust and confidence and emotional interdependence which normally characterises a marriage relationship provides scope for abuse. One party may take advantage of the other’s vulnerability. Unhappily, such abuse does occur. Further, it is all too easy for a husband, anxious or even desperate for bank finance, to misstate the position in some particular or to mislead the wife, wittingly or unwittingly, in some other way. The law would be seriously defective if it did not recognise these realities.’

Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead Lord Clyde Lord Hobhouse of Wood-borough Lord Scott of Foscote
Times 17-Oct-2001, [2001] UKHL 44, [2001] 3 WLR 1021, [2002] 2 AC 773, [2002] HLR 4, [2002] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 343, [2001] NPC 147, [2001] Fam Law 880, [2001] 43 EGCS 184, [2001] 2 All ER (Comm) 1061, [2001] 4 All ER 449, [2001] 2 FLR 1364, [2002] 1 P and CR DG14, [2001] 3 FCR 481
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
CitedBarclays Bank Plc v O’Brien and Another HL 21-Oct-1993
The wife joined in a charge on the family home to secure her husband’s business borrowings. The husband was found to have misrepresented to her the effect of the deed, and the bank had been aware that she might be reluctant to sign the deed.
DisapprovedRoyal Bank of Scotland v Etridge, Loftus and Another v Etridge and Another, Etridge v Pritchard Englefield (Merged With Robert Gore and Co ) Midland Bank Plc v Wallace and Another (No 2) CA 31-Jul-1998
Detailed guidance was given on the quality of independent legal advice, which would be required to be given to wives signing charges to secure their husbands’ business etc accounts on the matrimonial home. The interaction of legal advice and . .
CitedHuguenin 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 . .
CitedBainbrigge v Browne ChD 19-May-1881
An impoverished father had prevailed upon his inexperienced children to charge their reversionary interests under their parents’ marriage settlement to pay his mortgage debts. Undue influence was claimed.
Held: The defendants who were not . .
CitedCIBC 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 . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank plc v Morgan HL 7-Mar-1985
Undue influence was alleged.
Held: Equity avoids dispositions of property procured by the improper or unconscientious use of the influence of one person over another, that cannot be explained on the grounds of friendship, charity or other . .
CitedAllcard v Skinner CA 1887
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 . .
CitedZamet v Hyman CA 1961
In considering a claim of undue influence the court referred to relationships where one party owed the other an obligation of candour and protection. A presumption of undue influence arose only where it is proved that the gift was made by the donor . .
CitedBank 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 . .
CitedRoyal Bank of Scotland v Etridge, Loftus and Another v Etridge and Another, Etridge v Pritchard Englefield (Merged With Robert Gore and Co ) Midland Bank Plc v Wallace and Another (No 2) CA 31-Jul-1998
Detailed guidance was given on the quality of independent legal advice, which would be required to be given to wives signing charges to secure their husbands’ business etc accounts on the matrimonial home. The interaction of legal advice and . .
CitedBank of Montreal v Stuart PC 1911
The court used the phrase ‘immoderate and irrational’ to describe the character of a transaction which might of its nature suggest undue influence. A solicitor who is advising a client about a transaction and has reason to suspect that the client is . .
Appeal fromBarclays Bank Plc v Coleman and Others CA 5-Jan-2000
It is still the case that a claimant, arguing for a charge to be set aside for undue influence must show some manifest and clear disadvantage arising from the charge. This may be subject to change in the future, but still applies now. A document . .
CitedIn re Lloyds Bank Ltd, Bomze v Bomze 1931
Where there is evidence that a husband has taken unfair advantage of his influence over his wife, or her confidence in him, ‘it is not difficult for the wife to establish her title to relief.’ . .
CitedMassey v Midland Bank Plc CA 1995
Where a woman executes a mortgage charging her property in favour of the bank to secure her partner’s debts, the bank is fixed with notice of the possibility of undue influence. It was not necessary that the couple should be married or cohabit. . .
CitedCobbett v Brock CA 1855
Knowledge of the undue influence of a husband over his wife in securing her signature to a charge is required before a lender is bound by that undue influence. . .
CitedRe Coomber, Coomber v Coomber ChD 1911
A father had been assisted in his business by his second son. After the father’s death, the mother transferred the business assets to that second son. After her death, the elder son sought the transfer of those assets back into her estate, saying . .
CitedCredit Lyonnais Bank Nederland NV v Burch CA 1-Jul-1996
A Bank was to assume that undue influence existed where they knew that an employee was giving security for his employer’s debt to the bank. An unlimited guarantee given by an employee to his employer’s bank was set aside as unconscionable. The . .
CitedBank of Baroda v Rayarel and Others CA 19-Jan-1995
A bank may assume that a solicitor advising a customer’s wife had acted properly. The solicitors acted for both the husband and the wife before they also gave their instructions to the solicitors. . .
CitedInche Noriah v Shaik Allie Bin Omar PC 1928
Undue influence was alleged against a nephew over his elderly aunt. One solicitor had drafted the deed of gift, and another had witnessed it. The solicitor had established that she understood it and entered into it freely, but had not asked enough . .
CitedSmith v Governor and Company of The Bank of Scotland HL 6-Feb-1997
A bank which did not warn its customer of the of risks of a loan and of the need for independent advice was bound by misrepresentations made by customer. The House referred to ‘the broad principle in the field of contract law of fair dealing in good . .
CitedIn re Craig, Decd 1971
Undue influence was found to have been exercised by a secretary companion over her elderly employer. . .
CitedTurnbull and Co v Duval PC 1902
Mr Duval owed three separate sums to a firm Turnbull and Co including andpound;1,000 owed to the Jamaican branch for beer. Turnbulls’ manager and agent in Jamaica was a Mr Campbell. Mr Campbell was also an executor and trustee of a will under which . .
CitedWatt or Forsyth (Assisted Person) v the Royal Bank of Scotland Plc SCS 26-Jul-1999
It appeared to the creditor that the wife had already had the benefit of professional legal advice, and it did not recommend that she should seek independent legal advice. . .
CitedBanco Exterior Internacional SA (Formerly Banco Exterior – UK a Limited Liability Company Incorporated Under the Laws of Spain) v Thomas and Barry the Executors of Patricia Dempsey CA 31-Jul-1996
The bank sought to enforce a guarantee against the estate of the deceased guarantor. The executors alleged undue influence. The bank appealed.
Held: Where the other contracting party had had actual knowledge of the undue influence or . .
CitedCommission for the New Towns v Cooper (Great Britain) Ltd, (Formerly Coopind UK Ltd) CA 4-Mar-1995
The trial judge had dismissed a claim for rectification on the basis that the defendant hoped and suspected, but did not know, of the relevant mistake by the plaintiff.
Held: Rectification was ordered because the defendant had sought to . .
CitedKenyon-Brown v Desmond Banks and Co 2000
. .
CitedHamilton v Watson 1845
Although a would-be surety is, in general, expected to acquaint himself with the risk he is undertaking, the creditor is under an obligation to disclose to the intending surety ‘anything which might not naturally be expected to take place between . .
CitedSeaton v Heath CA 1899
A suretyship contract is not a contract uberrimae fidei. Romer LJ said: ‘The risk undertaken is generally known to the surety and the circumstances generally point to the view that as between the creditor and surety it was contemplated and intended . .
CitedBanco Exterior Internacional v Mann and Others CA 19-Dec-1994
A charge to secure a husband’s borrowings was enforceable where the wife’s signature had been taken before a solicitor who had explained it. Hobhouse LJ (dissenting) ‘It must be remembered that the starting point of this exercise is that the wife’s . .
CitedLondon General Omnibus Co Ltd v Holloway 1912
Lee was employed by the bus company in a position which involved receiving money on their behalf. The bus company required him to obtain a fidelity bond from a third party. The bond was given by Holloway, a relative of Lee, without either the bus . .
Appeal fromGovernor and Company of Bank of Scotland v Bennett and Another CA 21-Dec-1998
The bank appealed an order setting aside a deed of guarantee and mortgage and denying the possession order sought. The guarantee had been given to support borrowings of the defendant’s company. The defendant was the wife of the director and had been . .
CitedPooraka Holdings Pty Ltd v Participation Nominees Pty Ltd 1991
The court considered the creditor’s duty of disclosure to a surety.
Held: The duty of disclosure extends to any unusual feature surrounding the transaction between the creditor and the surety (a) of which the creditor is or ought to be aware, . .
ApprovedGovernor and Company of Bank of Scotland v Bennett and Another ChD 1997
Mrs Bennett defended the bank’s claim for possession of the matrimonial home charged to the bank to secure her husband’s borrowings. She said that her signature, both to the guarantee and to the legal charge, had been procured by her husband’s undue . .

Cited by:
CitedNational Westminster Bank Plc v Amin and Another HL 28-Feb-2002
The respondents resisted an application for possession of their property by the bank. They claimed undue influence, and that because of an inability to speak English, the charge should be avoided. They appealed an order striking out their defence . .
CitedU v Centre for Reproductive Medicine CA 24-Apr-2002
The claimant appealed a refusal to grant an order preventing the destruction of the sperm of her late husband held by the respondent fertility clinic. The clinic had persuaded her husband to sign a form of consent for this purpose. The claimant said . .
CitedHammond 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 . .
CitedPadgham and another v Rochelle and another ChD 1-Aug-2002
The testator occupied farmland and buildings. He was helped in maintaining the farm by his son, but gave the land to his grandchildren by his will. The son claimed to have been granted an informal written agricultural tenancy by his father before . .
CitedFranklyn 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 . .
CitedUCB Group Ltd v Hedworth CA 4-Dec-2003
The defendant challenged the claimant’s right to possession under a legal charge. She appealed a finding that she had not established the undue influence of her husband, a solicitor.
Held: A lender who received a voidable security was entitled . .
CitedUCB Group Ltd v Hedworth CA 4-Dec-2003
The defendant challenged the claimant’s right to possession under a legal charge. She appealed a finding that she had not established the undue influence of her husband, a solicitor.
Held: A lender who received a voidable security was entitled . .
CitedSandra Estelle Fielding v The Royal Bank of Scotland Plc CA 11-Feb-2004
The husband and wife had signed a bank mandate allowing the bank to act upon the authorisation of either of them. The wife complained that the bank should not be able to recover from her any sums expended by the husband.
Held: The mandate . .
CitedNiersmans 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 . .
CitedVale v Armstrong, Armstrong ChD 21-May-2004
The claimant sought to set aside a transfer of his house to the defendants made at an undervalue and under an enduring power of attorney, who had charged it to raise money for their business. He had received independent advice.
Held: The . .
CitedYorkshire Bank Plc v Tinsley CA 25-Jun-2004
The defendant’s husband had charged the matrimonial home on several occasions to the claimant. It was found that the first charges were affected by undue influence and could not be enforced. The defendant argued that the last charge which replaced . .
CitedAnthony Papouis v Valerie Gibson-West ChD 4-Mar-2004
The deceased had purchased her flat using the discount available as a tenant, and money contributed by the defendant. A deed of trust had been executed, which the claimant now asserted had been obtained by undue influence.
Held: The principles . .
CitedR 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 . .
CitedDaniel 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 . .
CitedRandall 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 . .
CitedBowser v Caley and others ChD 16-Mar-2006
The claimant alleged that the transfer by him of his land to his sister and her husband had been obtained by any of several wrongful means and should be set aside.
Held: The allegations of undue influence failed. The claimant did not establish . .
CitedHalpern and Another v Halpern and others ComC 4-Jul-2006
The court considered whether a party can avoid a contract procured by duress in circumstances where he cannot offer the other party substantial restitutio in integrum.
Held: Unless the claimant could offer counter-restitution, the remedy of . .
CitedStack v Dowden HL 25-Apr-2007
The parties had cohabited for a long time, in a home bought by Ms Dowden. After the breakdown of the relationship, Mr Stack claimed an equal interest in the second family home, which they had bought in joint names. The House was asked whether, when . .
CitedHalpern and others v Halpern and Another (No 2) CA 3-Apr-2007
The parties had settled by compromise a dispute about the implementation of a will before the Beth Din. It was now said that the compromise agreement had been entered into under duress and was unenforceable. The defendant said that rescission could . .
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 . .
CitedGoodchild v Branbury and others CA 15-Dec-2006
Application was made to set aside transfers of land for undue influence, and that the second transfere was aware of the deficiency in the first.
Held: The appeal suceeded, and the transfers were set aside. Chadwick LJ said: ‘A gift which is . .
CitedGreene King Plc v Stanley and others CA 30-Nov-2001
The claimant challenged an order that the two defendant chargors were discharged from liability to the claimants under their individual voluntary arrangement and on the basis that it had been entered under undue influence. . .
CitedHewett 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, . .
CitedLink Lending Ltd v Bustard CA 23-Apr-2010
The respondent had been detained in a secure mental unit for a year. In that time her home was charged to the appellant. She asserted that she had been a person in actual occupation. The chargee now appealed against a finding that the respondent had . .
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 . .
CitedDay v Shaw and Another ChD 17-Jan-2014
Mr and Mrs Shaw had granted a second charge over their jointly-owned matrimonial home to secure the personal guarantee given by their daughter and by Mr Shaw in respect of a bank loan to a company (Avon). Their daughter and Mr Shaw were the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Banking, Legal Professions, Undue Influence, Equity

Leading Case

Updated: 15 January 2022; Ref: scu.166567