• In this case, the Court of Appeal held that in a case concerning defendants wishing to rely on proprietary estoppel, the burden is on the claimant to show that the defendant did not rely on the assurances made to them.
  • If this is established, then the burden of proving that the defendant acted to their detriment also lies with the claimant.

Facts of the case:

  • D worked as a maid and went on to live with a member of the household at which she worked.
  • Their relationship was akin to that of a husband and wife.
  • When they were in the relationship with the member of the household, she was not paid for her work, but continued to look after the family there. She was told that she could live in the house for life.
  • Her partner inherited the property, and his sons sought to evict her.
  • D relied on property estoppel, and argued that she could not be evicted because she was entitled to live in the property for the rest of her life.
  • the trial judge found in favour of Cs, on the basis that D had to prove she relied on the assurance made to her by the family, and that she relied on this assurance to her detriment.

Issues in Greasley v Cooke

  • The issue in this case was whether D had to prove that there was detrimental reliance, or whether it was for the Cs to prove that she did not rely to her detriment.

The CA held:

  • The CA found in the defendant’s favour. The burden in this case lay with the claimants to show that the defendant did not rely on the assurances made to her. They failed in advancing submissions to this point. It was to be presumed that D acted in reliance on the assurance.
  • It was also for the claimants to show that she acted to her detriment, which they also failed to do. Therefore, the defendant was found to have relied on the assurance made to her, and acted to her detriment thereby meaning she was able to successfully gain the property right using proprietary estoppel.

Lord Denning MR:

  • [1311] “The burden is not on her, but on them, to prove that she did not rely on their assurances. They did not prove it, nor did their representatives. So she is presumed to have relied on them. So on the burden of proof it seems to me that the judge was in error.”
  • [1311 and 1312] “It is to be presumed that she did so. There is no need for her to prove that she acted to her detriment or to her prejudice. Suffice it that she stayed in the house looking after Kenneth and Clarice, when otherwise she might have left and got a job elsewhere”