Contract law cases: White v. Bluett (1853)

In White v. Bluett (1853) the defendant owed his father some money but his father had promised him that he would write off the debt if his son stopped complaining as to how the property was distributed among the children.

Upon his death, the executor sued for the outstanding debt. It was held that not complaining was not sufficient consideration and the plaintiff was successful. Consideration must have some economic value i.e. it must be in the form of monies or monies worth.

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Land Law – ownership – above and below the surface XVIII

Any item of value that is found on any piece of land that falls within the scope and ambit of the Treasure Act 1966 is considered or regarded as treasure.

S. 1 of the act defines treasure: –

(1) Treasure is—

(a) any object at least 300 years old when found which—

(i) is not a coin but has metallic content of which at least 10 per cent by weight is precious metal;

(ii) when found, is one of at least two coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time and have that percentage of precious metal; or

(iii) when found, is one of at least ten coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time;

(b) any object at least 200 years old when found which belongs to a class designated under section 2 (1);

(c) any object which would have been treasure trove if found before the commencement of section 4;

(d) any object which, when found, is part of the same find as—

(i) an object within paragraph (a), (b) or (c) found at the same time or earlier; or

(ii) an object found earlier which would be within paragraph (a) or (b) if it had been found at the same time.

(2) Treasure does not include objects which are—

(a) unworked natural objects, or

(b) minerals as extracted from a natural deposit, or which belong to a class designated under section 2(2).

S. 4 is with regards of ownership of treasure:-

(1) When treasure is found, it vests, subject to prior interests and rights—

(a) in the franchisee, if there is one;

(b) otherwise, in the Crown.

(2) Prior interests and rights are any which, or which derive from any which—

(a) were held when the treasure was left where it was found, or

(b) if the treasure had been moved before being found, were held when it was left where it was before being moved.

(3) If the treasure would have been treasure trove if found before the commencement of this section, neither the Crown nor any franchisee has any interest in it or right over it except in accordance with this Act.

(4) This section applies—

(a) whatever the nature of the place where the treasure was found, and

(b) whatever the circumstances in which it was left (including being lost or being left with no intention of recovery).

and

S. 7 gives us the jurisdiction of the coroner.

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Contract law cases: Chappell v. Nestlé (1960)

In Chappell v. Nestlé (1960), Nestle ran a promotion whereby any person who sent in 3 wrappers and a postal order for 1s and 6d would be sent a record. Chappell a copyright owner in one of the records disputed Nestle’s offer and argued that the records would normally retail at 6s or more.

The matter before the courts was to decide if the wrappers formed part of the consideration and if they did there was no possible means to ascertain their value and Chappell would be successful in obtaining an injunction preventing Nestle from distributing the records. The court held that the wrappers were indeed part of the consideration and Chappell was successful in obtaining an injunction to stop Nestle from distributing the records.

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Land Law – ownership – above and below the surface XVII

In Waverly Borough Council v Fletcher (1995) the defendant was out in a park owned by Waverly Borough Council with his metal detector to see if he could stumble across lost treasure and as luck would have it he found a gold medieval brooch which he handed over to the coroner to determine if it was a treasure trove. An inquiry was conducted and it was decided that the item was not classed or categorized as a treasure trove and the item was returned to the defendant. Waverly Borough Council then brought an action against the defendant claiming that the brooch was theirs because it was found buried in their land.

It was decided that the brooch belonged to the council. The facts in the case can be distinguished from the facts in Parker v British Airways Board (1982) in that, in Parker, the bracelet was lying loosely on the floor while in the present case the brooch was buried in the ground i.e. in some way annexed to the land.

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Contract law cases: Thomas v. Thomas (1842)

In Thomas v. Thomas (1842) a dying husband transferred the ownership of his seven houses to his brother but informed him prior to death, in front of two witnesses that, he wanted his wife to be permitted to live in one of those houses.

His brother Samuel complied with his wishes and after his death he allowed his brother’s wife (Eleanor) to stay in one of the houses and had a written agreement drawn up whereby his brother’s widow was to remain in the house on the conditions that she kept the house in good repair and paid a rent of £1 per annum. The agreement continued for some years until Samuel’s death whereby the executors refused to continue with the arrangement. It was held that the rent of £1 per annum was sufficient consideration and that Eleanor could continue to remain in the house.

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Land Law – ownership – above and below the surface XVI

In Anchor Brewhouse Developments v Berkley House Ltd (1987) the jib (the projecting arm) of the defendant’s crane passed over the defendant’s land during construction work in an adjoining piece of land. The claimant brought an action for trespass against the defendant for intruding into the defendant’s airspace and was successful.

Trespass is actionable per se i.e. the fact that it was committed is enough grounds for a court to grant an injunction.

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Land Law – ownership – above and below the surface XV

In Parker v British Airways Board (1982) the plaintiff found a gold bracelet in the British Airways lounge and handed it over to an employee of British Airways on the terms that if British Airways failed to locate the owner the bracelet should be returned to him and gave the employee his name and address so that British Airways could do so.

When the bracelet remained unclaimed, British Airways sold the bracelet for £850 and it retained the proceeds despite the fact that the plaintiff had specifically told them that should they fail to locate the owner the bracelet should be returned to him.

It was held that the first in time should prevail and in the absence of trespass or a breach of the law the bracelet belonged to the plaintiff. The court also took into account the fact that the bracelet was lying loosely on the floor and was in no way attached to the land.

The court laid down the rights and obligations of the finder and the occupier

Rights and obligations of the finder: –

  1. The finder of a chattel acquires no rights over it unless

(a) it has been abandoned or lost

and

(b) he takes it into his care and control.

  1. The finder of a chattel acquires very limited rights over it if he takes it into his care and control with dishonest intent or there was trespass.
  2. Subject to the foregoing and to point 4 below, a finder of a chattel, whilst not acquiring absolute property or ownership in the chattel, acquires rights to keep it against all but the true owner or those in a position to claim through the true owner or one who can assert a prior right to keep the chattel which was subsisting at the time when the finder took the chattel into his care and control.
  3. Unless otherwise agreed, any servant or agent who finds a chattel in the course of his employment and not wholly incidentally or collaterally thereto and who takes it into his care and control does so on behalf of his employer or principle who acquires a finder’s right to the exclusion of those of the actual finder.
  4. A person having a finder’s right has an obligation to take appropriate measures as in all the circumstances are reasonable to acquaint the true owner of the finding and present whereabouts of the chattel and to care for it meanwhile.

Rights and obligations of the occupier: –

  1. An occupier has rights superior to those of a finder over chattels attached to that land and an occupier of a building has similar rights in respect of chattels attached to that building, whether in either case the occupier is aware of its presence.
  2. An occupier of a building has rights superior to those of a finder over chattels on or in, but not attached to, that building if, but only if, before the chattel is found, he has manifested an intention to exercise control over the building and the things which may be on or in it.
  3. An occupier who manifests an intention to exercise control over a building and the things which may be on or in it so as to acquire rights superior to those of a finder is under an obligation to take such measures as in all the circumstances are reasonable to ensure that lost chattels are found and, on their being found, whether by him or a third party, to acquaint the true owner of the finding and to care for the chattels meanwhile. The manifestation of intention may be express or implied from the circumstances including, in particular, the circumstances that the occupier manifestly accepts or is obliged by law to accept liability for chattels lost on his ‘premises’.
  4. An “occupier” or a chattel – e.g. a ship, motorcar, caravan or aircraft – is to be treated as if he were the occupier of a building for the purposes of the foregoing rules.

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Land Law – ownership – above and below the surface XIV

In Bernstein v Skyviews & General Ltd (1977) the defendant took aerial photographs of numerous properties which he intended to sell to the owner of the properties. The plaintiff the owner of one of the properties brought an action against the defendant claiming that the defendant’s actions breached the plaintiff’s privacy and that the defendant had intruded on the plaintiff’s airspace.

It was held that there was no breach of the plaintiff’s privacy and neither was there an intrusion into his airspace. The plaintiff has all the right to enjoy as much of his airspace as is reasonable and to claim that the plaintiff enjoyed rights to the altitude that the airplane was flying at was unreasonable.

The court once again clarified the Latin maxim cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos i.e. “…. whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to the depths of the earth ….” and incorporated a reasonableness test into it to ensure that it was practical. “Legal theory must give way to practical politics” – Blackburn v Attorney-General (1971) – Lord Denning MR.

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Contract law cases: Re Casey Patent’s (1892)

In Re Casey Patent’s (1892) the plaintiff did some patenting work for the defendant and upon the completion of the work the defendant promised to give the plaintiff one-third of the share in the patents. The defendant later failed to comply and the plaintiff sued. The plaintiff was successful in his claim because the work was done on the understanding or the premise that the plaintiff would be given some form of remuneration or the other.

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