M.H. Maçon and N.P. Maçon (Née Pirouet) v Quérée (Née Colligny)

CourtRoyal Court
JudgePage, Commr.
Judgment Date27 March 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] J.Unrep 73
Date27 March 2001
Page, Commr.

D.F. Le Quesne for the plaintiffs;

J.D. Kelleher for the defendant.

Cases cited:

(1) Abidin Daver, The, [1984] A.C. 398; [1984] 1 All E.R. 470; [1984] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 339, dicta of Lord Brandon followed.

(2) Elgindata Ltd. (No. 2), Re, [1992] 1 W.L.R. 1207; [1993] 1 All E.R. 232; [1993] BCLC 119, considered.

Additional cases cited by counsel:

Abdel Rahman v. Chase Bank (C.I.) Trust Co. Ltd., 1984 J.J. 127.

Alltrans Express Ltd. v. CVA Holdings Ltd., [1984] 1 W.L.R. 394.

Berkeley Trust Co. Ltd., In re, Royal Court, November 15th, 1995, unreported.

Cutner v. Green, 1980 J.J. 269.

Donoghue, In re, 2000 JLR 67.

Glendale Holdings v. Tourism Cttee., Royal Ct., October 11th, 1990, unreported.

Jersey New Waterworks Co. Ltd., In re, Royal Ct., November 16th, 1994, unreported.

Scherer v. Counting Instruments Ltd., [1986] 1 W.L.R. 615.

Smith v. Cosworth Casting Processes Ltd., [1997] 1 W.L.R. 1538.

Smiths Ltd. v. Middleton, [1986] 1 W.L.R. 598.

Legislation construed:

Civil Proceedings (Jersey) Law 1956, art. 2:

"(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part of this law and to the rules of court made under the Royal Court (Jersey) Law, 1948, the costs of and incidental to all proceedings in the Royal Court shall be in the discretion of the Court, and the Court shall have full power to determine by whom and to what extent the costs are paid.

(2) No appeal shall lie from an order of the Royal Court as to costs only which are left to its discretion except with the leave of the court making the order."

Civil Procedure—costs—appeal against costs—leave to appeal—leave normally granted unless appeal has no realistic chance of success

Civil Procedure—costs—appeal against costs—Court of Appeal not to interfere unless (a) Royal Court misdirected itself as to principles applicable; (b) considered improper matters, or failed to consider proper matters; or (c) decision plainly wrong

Civil Procedure—costs—discretion of court—principles for exercise of discretion

The plaintiffs claimed damages from the defendant for breach of contract or alternatively in equity on the basis of an estoppel.

The defendant and the plaintiffs, who were renting rooms in her house, had an agreement whereby the plaintiffs would care for the defendant in her old age in return for inheriting the property on her death. In reliance upon this the plaintiffs spent a significant amount of money on improvements to the property.

During 1994-95 the defendant suffered a serious illness and, in 1996, she removed the plaintiffs from her will on the ground, inter alia, that they had not looked after her properly during that period. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs became beneficiaries under the will of B and had received assets worth around £447,000 by the time of her death in 1999. This information was only disclosed by the plaintiffs at a late stage in proceedings, however, and then only after a summons by the defendant.

The plaintiffs claimed that by revising her will to disinherit them, the defendant had become liable to them in damages for breach of contract or alternatively in equity on the basis of an estoppel.

The Royal Court dismissed the plaintiffs' claim in contract and held that they had not looked after the defendant properly in 1994-95. It was also critical of their misconduct in not disclosing the inheritance from B until a late stage and of their credibility as witnesses. Nevertheless, it awarded the plaintiffs £25,000 damages to represent their reliance expenditure on the property on condition that they completely vacated it within 5½ months and that the execution of the award was postponed either until the defendant sold the property of her own free will or died. After hearing applications for costs, the court ordered that the plaintiffs should pay 20% of the defendant's costs. The proceedings are reported at 2001 JLR 80.

The plaintiffs applied for leave to appeal against the order for costs, submitting that (a) they were the substantially successful parties to the action; (b) it was important not to overstate their misconduct as it had not had a significant impact on the course of the action; (c) there was an element of triple jeopardy, in that their misconduct had prejudiced them in three different ways—(i) concerning their credibility, (ii) concerning the appropriate relief to be given, and (iii) in relation to the costs order made; and (d) the figure of 20% of the defendant's costs (which the plaintiffs had been ordered to pay) was arbitrary and neither logical nor justifiable.

Held, refusing the application:

(1) The court would normally grant leave to appeal unless the grounds of appeal had no realistic chance of success. The test adopted in Jersey was that the Court of Appeal would not interfere save in three cases: (a) where the lower court misdirected itself with regard to the principles in accordance with which its discretion was exercised; (b) where the lower court, in exercising its discretion, had taken into account matters which it ought not to have done, or had failed to take into account matters which it ought to have done; and (c) where its decision was plainly wrong ( paras. 3-4).

(2) On the evidence, it was wholly improbable that any Court of Appeal could believe other than that the substantially successful party overall in the proceedings was the defendant. The Royal Court had made it clear that it did not regard the plaintiffs as...

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