Sun Life Assurance Co of Canada v Jervis: HL 1944

The parties had disputed the terms of an insurance policy. The House considered whether it could hear the case once the dispute had been settled.
Held: There was no remaining dispute for the House to settle. Viscount Simon LC said: ‘My Lords, in my opinion, the House should decline to hear this appeal on the ground that there is no issue before us to be decided between the parties. I do not think that it would be a proper exercise of the authority which this House possesses to hear appeals if it occupies time in this case in deciding an academic question, the answer to which cannot affect the respondent in any way. If the House undertook to do so, it would not be deciding an existing list between the parties who are before it, but would merely be expressing its view on a legal conundrum which the appellants hope to get decided in their favour without in any way affecting the position between the parties.
What is sometimes called a ‘friendly action’ is not necessarily open to this objection, either in the first court or on appeal, for the respective parties in such an action are arguing for different results and the winner gains something which he would not gain if he lost, but the objection here is that, if the appeal fails, the respondent gains nothing at all from his success. . .
I think it is an essential quality of an appeal fit to be disposed of by this House that there should exist between the parties a matter in actual controversy which the House undertakes to decide as a living issue.’


Viscount Simon LC


[1944] AC 111


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBowman v Fels (Bar Council and Others intervening) CA 8-Mar-2005
The parties had lived together in a house owned in the defendant’s name and in which she claimed an interest. The claimant’s solicitors notified NCIS that they thought the defendant had acted illegally in setting off against his VAT liability the . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex Parte Salem HL 3-Mar-1999
The House of Lords has the power to hear a case where the parties have in effect settled and there remains no lis at issue, but the House will not hear such an academic case where no general issue of importance is at stake, or the facts are . .
CitedBushell and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Newcastle Upon Tyne Licensing Justices and Another HL 15-Feb-2006
Licensees appealed against the grant of judicial review of decisions granting special removal of old on-licences for premises. The grant had been challenged on the basis that the magistrates had had no jurisdiction to make the award because the . .
CitedRolls-Royce plc v Unite the Union CA 14-May-2009
The parties disputed whether the inclusion of length of service within a selection matrix for redundancy purposes would amount to unlawful age discrimination. The court was asked whether it was correct to make a declaratory judgment when the case . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice

Updated: 17 July 2022; Ref: scu.223321