• In the case of Boustany v Pigott 1995 69 P Cr 298 an appeal is made against a decision, in an attempt to have a lease set aside on the grounds of it being an unconscionable bargain.
    • A transaction where one party is in a much stronger position than the other.

Facts of the Case

  • The claimant (C), Mrs. Boustany’s, affairs had been, as agreed, managed by her cousin (B). being aware that the cousin was away on one occasion, the defendant (D), Mrs. Pigott, invited Mrs. Boustany over, at which point Mrs. Pigott spent time flattering the claimant.
  • Later Mrs. Pigott took the claimant to a solicitor where the claimant agreed to lease a premise to D for less than 1/6 of the market value for the duration of 10 years. Despite warnings against the latter C agreed to the transaction.

Issues in Boustany v Pigott 1995 69 P Cr 298

  • To prove that a transaction is unconscionable the claimant (C) must establish that the defendant (D) was aware that C was in a vulnerable position and then knowingly took advantage of this during the transaction.
  • In these exceptional circumstances, legal advice was actually given to the claimant.

Held by the Court (House of Lords)

  • The legal advice provided was declared, insufficient in its attempted use to have the claim of unconscionable bargain discharged given that the claimant was under continuous pressure while she was being given the advice.
  • The lease was set aside for an unconscionable bargain.

Lord Templeman

  • Lord Templeman (p. 303) provided a list of points regarding the occasions and the way in which equitable fraud can vitiate a contract:
  • The jurisdiction of Equality is not something that is called upon when a transaction is hard unreasonable or foolish. To assert the use of equity the agreement must be unconscionable in that, ‘one of the parties to it has imposed the objectionable terms in a morally reprehensible manner, That is to say in a way which affects his conscience.’
  • ‘Unconscionable refers, not only, to the terms of the bargain but also to the behaviour of the stronger party which must be characterised by some moral culpability or impropriety.
  • There must also be a combination of unequal bargaining power and an abuse of that power.
  • Unconscionable conduct must actually be present and terms being unfair or imbalanced are not to be considered sufficient.
  • The claimant in any given case, the party seeking relief, is burdened with the task of proving and providing unconscionable conduct to the court, “namely that unconscionable advantage has been taken of his disabling condition or circumstances.”