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Cases - judicial precedent in other courts

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[Home][Index - Cases][ Cases sources of law][Cases - judicial precedent in other courts]

Central London Property v High Trees House [1947] KBD Denning J

Colchester Estates v Carlton Industries [1984] Ch Div

Huddersfield Police Authority v Watson (1947) QBD

Michaels & anr v Taylor Woodrow Developments Ltd & ors Chancery Division (2000)

R v Greater Manchester Coroner, ex parte Tal [1985] QBD

Re Kay's Settlement [1939] Simonds J

Re S (Adult: refusal of medical treatment) [1992] Fam


Central London Property v High Trees House [1947] Denning J



Red Triangle - important information

[Precedent – obiter dicta can be persuasive]
D leased a block of flats in London from C in 1937. When war broke out, many flats were left empty as people were evacuated to escape bombings. C agreed to reduce the rent by half if D stayed. D paid the reduced rent until the end of the war, and C then claimed for the "arrears".


Held: Denning J "discovered" the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel, and said that although C were once again entitled to the rent originally agreed after the war ended, they could not go back on their promise to accept a reduced rent for the earlier years.


When a party to a contract makes a promise to the other, which he knows will be acted on, that he will not enforce his strict legal rights; the equitable principle of promissory estoppel makes that promise binding on him until such time as he gives reasonable notice of his intention to resume those rights.

Denning J (
obiter dicta) said that had Central London sued for the arrears for the years 1940-45, it would have failed.  It would have been estopped from going back on its promise [as set out in the 1940 agreement] to accept a reduction in rental, even though that promise had not been supported by any consideration from High Trees because to hold otherwise would have been unjust.


Also here

Colchester Estates v Carlton Industries [1984] Ch Div

[Precedent – non binding nature of decisions in High Court]
In a property repair case DD applied to have proceedings struck out on the basis of a long-standing High Court authority.


Held: Dismissing the application and following a later case,


Nourse J:
To ensure certainty in the law, where there are two conflicting decisions of the High Court, the later decision is to be preferred, provided it was reached after full consideration of the earlier decision, unless the third judge is convinced that the second was wrong in not following the first.


Huddersfield Police Authority v Watson (1947) QBD

[Precedent – Divisional Courts – bound by their own decisions]
A police officer working long hours and suffering worry from his job developed a duodenal ulcer applied for a pension for an industrial injury.

Held: The
Divisional Court was bound to follow its own decision in a previous case (Garvin's case). Where the Divisional Court was made the final court of appeal, it must, as a general rule, follow a previous decision of the court and so avoid a conflict of authority and lack of finality.


PC received his pension.

Michaels & anr v Taylor Woodrow Developments Ltd & ors  (2000) Ch Div

[Precedent – use of reports]

MR Justice LADDIE said:

"There are now significantly more judges, more case and more databases than there were even two decades ago"
"Now there is no pre-selection. Large numbers of decisions, good and bad, reserved and unreserved, can be accessed. Lawyers frequently feel that they have an obligation to search this material. Anything which supports their clients' case must be drawn to the attention of the court".

The judge said this meant: increased client costs which is counter to the spirit of the Woolf reforms poor decisions which should have "died a quiet death" are used to support actions the "common law system stands the risk of being swamped by a torrent of material"


However, Mr Justice Laddie said Roberts Petroleum Ltd v Kenny Ltd. [1983] HL left problems especially if it were extended to other courts:

  • a decision which was clearly wrong but the only authority for an untenable position would not be excluded by the principle in Roberts Petroleum.

  • generalised and specialised reports have proliferated so much that they may be less reliable than in 1983         

  • seeking leave could be too cumbersome a process on current principles of stare decisis, how could a court of first instance, for example, refuse a unanimous, but unreported, decision of the Court of Appeal?

  • lawyers would still need to search databases for cases since they still might be able to apply for leave  

  • no-hoper claims might be kept alive pending leave to rely on lame duck judgments.        

Finally Mr Justice Laddie examined possible solutions which, in other countries, have involved a class of "non-precedential" judgments. He suggested that all extempore judgments of any court and any judgment of courts of first instance should not to be cited unless the court indicated to the contrary. All judgments would still be available to the public, but only the selected ones could be used for citation.


R v Greater Manchester Coroner, ex parte Tal [1985] QBD

^[Precedent – binding nature of Divisional Court]
C, the family of a man who died in a fire at Strangeways Prison, applied to have the findings of a coroner's inquest set aside for irregularity.

Held: Refusing the application, Goff LJ

“We have no doubt that it will be only in rare cases that a divisional court will think it fit to depart from a decision of another divisional court exercising this jurisdiction.”


The Divisional Court was strictly bound by the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal and normally by decisions of other Divisional Courts in the same way as the Court of Appeal in criminal cases.

Application by the family for Judicial Review refused

Re Kay's Settlement [1939] Simonds J

[Precedent – High Court judge not bound by brother judge in High Court but will usually follow]
C, trustees of a trust in favour of three children sought directions on their beneficial entitlement in the trust.

Held: Refusing to depart from Re Pryce [1917] which had ruled that the trustees should not enforce a covenant for the benefit of volunteers who had given no consideration.

Simonds J. refused to direct the trustees to put either covenant for the benefit of the settlor's children.

Re S (Adult: refusal of medical treatment) [1992] Fam


Whole case here.

[Precedent – recent examples of judicial lawmaking]
D the health authority caring for a seriously ill 30yr old woman who refused a Caesarean section on religious grounds.  C applied for a declaration to allow an emergency Caesarean section which was the only means of saving the patient's life and ensuring the live birth of the baby.

Held: Sir Stephen Brown relied upon Lord Donaldson's caveat in
Re T (Adult: Refusal of Treatment) [1992] ‘the only possible qualification is the case in which the choice may lead to the death of a viable foetus', and the American case of Re AC [1990] and granted a declaration that a caesarean section could be lawfully performed on a competent woman without her consent. 

This case has heavily criticised both for its substance and its procedural shortcomings.



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