A woman has won her case to keep a share of a lucrative family dairy farm after her parents tried to evict her.
The legal battle, Davies & Another v Davies, started after Tegwyn and Mary Davies attempted to evict their daughter Eirian, her partner and two children from the welsh farmhouse they inhabited. The daughter and father had fallen out after fighting in the milking shed.
The Court of Appeal have now ruled against the parents, granting Ms Davies a share in the Dairy Farm. Eirian Davies had worked long hours on the farm from a young age and throughout her adult life. She often worked for no money, as her parents had promised that “the farm would be hers one day.”
The court applied the principal of proprietary estoppel, which grants certain rights to property if a person has been given clear assurance that they will acquire the property and act on the promises made ‘to their detriment’ – i.e. in such a way that they lose out on other opportunities.
Applying this principal, the court found that Ms Davies did indeed have a right to an interest in the Dairy farm.
The court reasoned that she had an interest in the business because she relied on the promises made by her parents that the farm would be hers one day; she took on back-breaking work and even turned down other opportunities away from the farm. As a result, the court ruled that it would be “unconscionable for her to be denied a full beneficial interest in the farm and a share of the farming business.”
The parents appealed against this decision but lost in the Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice Floyd upheld the original judge’s decision and said in his Appeal judgment: “The [original] judge had to determine whether there was substantial detriment by contrasting the rewards of the job [outside the farm] with its better lifestyle with those of working on the farm (including the free accommodation…) with its greater burdens in terms of working hours and more difficult working relationships. I am not at all persuaded that his conclusion as to where the scales came down in this balancing exercise was wrong.
“The judge’s conclusion that there was net detriment [the woman] was one to which he was entitled to come. It was the result of a classic evaluative exercise which he performed with care. The evaluation is not flawed in a way which would justify this court in interfering.”
The extent of the woman’s interest in the business is to be determined at a subsequent hearing, meaning that Ms Davies will have to wait to receive her interest in the Dairy Farm.
Lord Justice Floyd concluded: “This is in many ways a tragic case. As the judge observed, the bitterness between the parties was such that each had few, if any, good words to say about the other. The fact remained, however, that between them they had over the years built up “by hard work, great skill and passionate dedication a prodigious Holstein pedigree milking herd and a highly successful business”.
“It is greatly to be hoped that they might now be able to resolve such remaining differences as they have in relation to [the daughter’s] entitlement without recourse to further costly and divisive litigation.”