End-of-chapter questions: Answer Guidance 7.1

Consideration and promissory estoppel

This problem obviously requires careful discussion of promissory estoppel and the decision in High Trees. But you should first consider the common law of consideration: the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel can only apply where the common law does not provide satisfactory relief. Here this looks like an instance of part payment of a debt, so Foakes v Beer (1884) 9 App Cas 605 should apply, unless you think that Jay receives some sort of ‘practical benefit’ similar to that in Williams v Roffey Bros [1990] 2 WLR 1153. That approach seems to have been rejected for promises to pay less by the Court of Appeal in Re Selectmove Ltd [1995] 2 All ER 531, but might be criticised.

Having dealt with the common law, you can then move on to promissory estoppel. You should clearly highlight the requirements of promissory estoppel. Particular issues worth focussing on include whether Phil relied upon the promise (and does it need to be to his detriment?); when is it unconscionable or inequitable to resile from the promise (when Phil inherits under the will or when the investigation clears Phil? Is the promise to accept less rent made because of the investigation or because Phil has no money?); what the effect of promissory estoppel really is (can it extinguish past obligations?)