Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Breach of promise in Naylor v Maher farm case


Breach of promise and 'Proprietory Estoppel'

Naylor v Maher -- [2012] IEHC 408

This case concerned a legal challenge by 57-year-old William Naylor to a will written by Mr Michael Hoare in 2006, who he believed to be his stepfather, but who during the course of the trial was proved to be his father.

In the 2006 will, Mr Hoare left his 120ac farm at Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary to his daughter Jean Maher, the defendant, who nursed him prior to his death.

However, Mr Hoare had made a will in 2005 in which he left the 120ac to the plaintiff, Mr Naylor. William Naylor claimed he was entitled to the lands on two grounds.

The first was that in the 1970s, he and Mr Hoare had agreed that if Mr Naylor carried out work on the farm and provided services both on the farm and to Mr Hoare personally for minimal pay then he, Mr Hoare, would make a will leaving the 120ac to Mr Naylor.

Mr Naylor claimed that from around 1973 onwards, Mr Hoare told him several times that Mr Naylor was working the lands for himself and that they would "one day be his".

Mr Naylor worked on Mr Hoare's farm from a very young age, starting with rearing calves and pigs and moving to milking the cows by the age of 13.

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He claimed that anytime he approached Mr Hoare about pay for his work, Mr Hoare would say: "Why would I pay you? Sure this place is going to be yours anyway."

Mr Naylor told the court that he had held up his side of the agreement but Mr Hoare had breached it by not leaving him the 120ac.

Mr Naylor's second reason for challenging the 2006 will was that he claimed it was null and void because it was procured by reason of duress or undue influence being exerted upon the deceased by Jean Maher. Mr Naylor claimed Mr Hoare had not been acting freely and voluntarily when he made his 2006 will and that the earlier 2005 will under which he would receive the land should stand.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Daniel O'Keeffe held that the 2006 will was not procured by reason of duress or undue influence being exercised upon Mr Hoare by Jean Maher.

However, he did agree that Mr Hoare had breached the agreement and had reneged on his representations to Mr Naylor.

Mr Justice O'Keeffe said Mr Naylor had acted to his detriment by working the lands for more than 30 years for minimal pay and had been induced to do so by the promises made by Mr Hoare and, therefore, the court would enforce the agreement made between them.

The case is currently under appeal to the Supreme Court.

Irish Independent