Promissory Estoppel: Relying on a Promise Made…

Ian Sheppard, of Birmingham Litigation solicitors Rubric Lois King, Considers the Doctrine of Promissory Estoppel.

On occasion clients complain that they think the law is unfair and, in some instances, I find it difficult to disagree. However the doctrine of promissory estoppel is a way by which the courts can stop a person from going back on promises made. This occurs when the person who has relied on these promises has acted to their detriment. In such circumstances it can be considered unfair if these promises made were not upheld.

When Can a Claim of Promissory Estoppel be Used?

Promissory estoppel arguments can occur in all types of litigation, but often arise in contested probate matters.  Consider the following situation. A says to B that B will inherit A’s property when A dies. As a result B spends money on renovating A’s property but when A dies their Will leaves the property to C.  B can argue that because of B’s reliance, to their detriment, on A’s promises, it would be unconscionable or unfair for C to inherit A’s property.

Promissory Estoppel Requirements

The requirements to establish a claim of promissory estoppel are broadly as follows:

  • A representation (usually in the form of a promise or assurance)
  • Detrimental reliance on that representation
  • Unconscionability – it must be considered unfair that the promises have not been upheld

Birmingham Litigation Solicitors RLK Can Help With a Claim of Promissory Estoppel

The above list is a simplistic way of looking at this potential cause of action and, as always, one has to consider all the facts in any situation.   However, do these circumstances apply to you;

  • Have promises been made to you and you subsequently relied on these promises?
  • As a result, did you act to your detriment?
  • Is the person who made the promises now seeking to resile from the promises made?  
  • Or alternatively, if for some other reason the promises are no longer being adhered to (for example, if the person has passed away and the promises are not being honoured)?

If these points are relevant to you, you may have a claim of promissory estoppel.  Please contact our Litigation Team at Rubric Lois King for further advice.  Call 0121 450 7800 or send an email to:

** This article does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to provide information on issues that may be of interest. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case **