Steria Ltd and others v Hutchison and others: CA 24 Nov 2006

Neuberger LJ observed that estoppels are relied on because of difficulties in establishing a contract; and, since unconscionability is the single factor that must be established for an estoppel and views on unconscionability may vary, it is necessary to have specific but flexible guiding principles; ‘When it comes to estoppels by representation or promissory estoppel, it seems to me very unlikely that a claimant would be able to satisfy the test of unconscionability unless he could also satisfy the three classic requirements. They are (a) a clear representation or promise made by the defendant upon which it is reasonably foreseeable that the claimant will act, (b) an act on the part of the claimant which was reasonably taken in reliance upon the representation or promise, and (c) after the act has been taken, the claimant being able to show that he will suffer detriment if the defendant is not held to the representation or promise. Even this formulation is relatively broad brush, and it should be emphasised that there are many qualifications or refinements which can be made to it.
The requirement for these three features, at least in relation to estoppel by representation, was very clearly put by the Privy Council in Tai Hing Cotton Mill Lt v. Liu Chong Hing Bank Ltd [1986] AC 80, 110, in the following terms: ‘the essence of estoppels is a representation (express or implied) intended to induce the person to whom it is made to adopt a course of conduct which results in detriment or loss.’
I can see no reason, in theory or practice, why this should not be equally true of promissory estoppel . .’
Mummery LJ, Jacob LJ, Neuberger J
[2006] EWCA Civ 1551, [2007] ICR 445
England and Wales
Appeal FromSteria Ltd and others v Hutchison and others ChD 21-Dec-2005
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Cited by:
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The defendant merchant banks resisted two group claims for annual bonuses for 2008 made by the employee claimants. They now sought summary judgment against the claims. The employer had declared a guaranteed minimum bonus pool available to make the . .

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Updated: 06 May 2021; Ref: scu.246376