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Daniel Black successful in High Court misrepresentation appeal

Judgment was handed down by Mr Justice Bourne on 26 February 2024 in Co Mayo Estates Ltd v Hidden Gem Ltd [2024] EWHC 401 (KB).  Daniel Black acted for the Claimant/Respondent who had sued for the unpaid balance of a deposit which the Defendant/Appellant had failed to pay following the sale of 3 plots of land it was successful in bidding for at auction. 

The Defendant had defended and counterclaimed on various bases of alleged misrepresentation. The Defendant’s case was that the “auction pack” had represented that the plots had a “real possibility” of residential development based on the words used, as well as the inclusion of CGI images depicting properties on the sites. In the event, the land being ancient woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty, there was no real – nor indeed any - possibility. 

The case is a notable example of the importance of the fight over the respective positions of the parties when it comes to knowledge, and the ability to gain it, with respect to the planning position concerning land. This is brought out in Bourne J’s consideration of the question of whether a statement was one of opinion and, if so, whether it was reasonably or honestly held. 

The Defendant’s submission that where a vendor “talks up” a property (e.g. “by choosing to include CGI images and unnecessary statements about potential”) then it is legally bound to state the true position was rejected. Moreover, this was not a case of superior information such as to establish, on the part of the vendor, a further implied representation that it had reasonable grounds for its belief. It was not a Brown v Raphael [1958] Ch 636 case.

The High Court’s reasoning in respect of determining the meaning of the contents of the auction pack, read as a whole, may also be of interest to those in the field, especially as regards the use of vague and qualified language.

The full text of Bourne J’s judgment is available here.

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