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Key decisions

  • Sidhu v Van Dyke [2014] HCA 19
  • Beaman & Bond [2014] FCWA 21
  • Eades & Wrensted [2014] FCWA 15
  • Whiteside [2014] FCCA 818
  • Waugh & Bannon [2014] FCCA 893

Property – High Court holds that husband should be held to his promises to transfer a property to his lover

In Sidhu v Van Dyke [2014] HCA 19 (16 May 2014) the High Court (French CJ, Kiefel, Bell, Gageler and Keane JJ) considered promises by the appellant husband to transfer to the wife’s sister-in-law (with whom he had had a sexual relationship) a cottage on a rural property in the homestead on which the husband lived with his wife. Relying on his promises, the respondent lover was prevailed on by him not to pursue her own husband for property settlement and she carried out work on the cottage and adjoining property. In the Equity Division of the Supreme Court of NSW, the respondent won an appeal from the first instance decision to the NSW Court of Appeal, which held the appellant estopped in equity from resiling from his promises on which the respondent had relied to her detriment, ordering him to pay her a sum equal to the value of the property promised. Upon the appellant’s appeal to the High Court, French CJ, Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ discussed equitable estoppel and the evidence at paras 58-78, concluding at para 86: “ … no reason has been identified by the appellant to conclude that good conscience does not require that [he] be held to his promises. In particular, it is no answer for [him] to say that the performance of his promises was conditional on the completion of the subdivision and the consent of his wife to the transfer to the respondent. His assurances to [her] were expressed categorically so as to leave no room for doubt that he would ensure that the subdivision would proceed and that the consent of [his] wife would be forthcoming”.

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