Case name & citation: Jones v Padavatton [(1969) 1 WLR 328; (1969) 2 All ER 616]
Claimant: Mrs. Jones (mother)
Defendant: Mrs. Padavatton (daughter)
Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal, UK
The bench of judges: L.J. Danckwerts, L.J. Salmon, L.J. Fenton Atkinson
What is the case about?
The intention of the parties to create a legal relationship is a prerequisite to forming an enforceable contract. But this intention is presumably not present in domestic or family agreements. The case of Jones v Padavatton is a good illustration of this.
Facts of the case (Jones v Padavatton)
A daughter quit her job in the USA and went to England to pursue studies for the Bar on her mother’s promise that she shall undertake all the expenses. The mother paid her a monthly allowance for maintenance. The arrangement was eventually altered, and the mother also agreed to give a house for her daughter to live in while she studied there. The daughter could not complete her education in five long years. Differences arose between the two and the mother stopped making payments. A dispute arose between them as to the occupancy of the house and the mother sought possession. In the initial decision, the daughter was entitled to remain in possession of the house, to which the mother appealed.
Issue raised in Jones v Padavatton
Did the arrangement give rise to a legally binding contract?
Contentions of the parties
The daughter claimed that the arrangement which she and her mother made constituted a legally binding contract and that, as such, she should be allowed to remain in possession of the house. She said there had been an intention to establish legal relationships and that she had provided consideration for her mother’s maintenance by studying for the Bar.
The mother contended that there had been only an informal family arrangement, with no intention of establishing legal relations, and that she was thus entitled to reclaim the possession of the house. Even if an enforceable contract existed, she claimed that the terms of the arrangement were too ambiguous for the Court to enforce.
The decision of the Court in Jones v Padavatton
The Court decided in favor of the mother.
Even though it was clear that the daughter gave some consideration in return for the mother’s promise, the English Court of Appeal determined that there was no intention of the parties to make the arrangement legally binding. Hence, the mother was allowed possession of the house.
Another view was taken by the judges. In this view, it was held that the engagement did result in a contract, but only for such a period that was reasonably sufficient for the daughter to complete her education. And the period of five years was more than sufficient for the said purpose. Therefore, the mother was entitled to terminate the contract for breach.
The reasoning behind the case
There is usually a presumption that family arrangements are built on mutual trust, familial relationships, and affection, with no purpose of creating legally binding contracts that may be enforced in the Courts. Though this presumption can be rebutted, the lack of formality in the agreement between the mother and daughter strongly suggested that there was no such intention, and the daughter had no defense to her mother’s claim to the house.
There are some other cases as well that throw light on the intention of the parties to create a legal relationship. One such case is Simpkins v Pays (1955) wherein a paying lodger sued the defendant for a share in the prize of a newspaper competition which they had submitted entries for. Here, the presence of the lodger in the case, among other things, had the impact of negating the presumption that this was purely a domestic affair with no legal consequences at all.
You may also want to have a look at another case law named “Rose and Frank v Crompton & Bros.”. Here, the intention of the parties to create a legal relationship in the context of a business agreement was the subject matter.
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