• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Promissory Estoppel is a shield not a sword

Extracts from this document...


"Promissory estoppel may be used as a shield but not a sword" English Law defines promissory estoppel as "a principle of justice and of equity. It comes to this: when a man, by his words or conduct, has led another to believe in a particular state of affairs, he will not be allowed to go back on it when it would be unjust or inequitable for him to so."1 Estoppel provides a way in which promises can be legally binding even if no consideration has been given. The importance of promissory estoppel in contract law is that it has enabled legal obligations, which fall into the category of contract law but fail to show any consideration, to be argued for. Promissory estoppel relates to a future contract or a form of future conduct, where a promise, or something very much resembling a promise, is made in future tense not to do something. It prevents a party from acting in a certain way because the first party promised not to do something, and the second party relied on that promise and acted upon it. The courts of Equity made it clear that in certain cases a person could not go back on such a future promise, thus proving to be binding despite the fact that no consideration had been given. The statement that "promissory estoppel may be used as a shield but not a sword"2 was introduced by the council in the case of Combe v Combe3 and was later approved by Birkett LJ. ...read more.


This case demonstrates how promissory estoppel is implemented as a shield in the English legal system. The effect that promissory estoppel has on the promisee's position is that although the promisee need not provide any consideration for the promisor's promise they cannot sue on that promise, as they have not given any consideration. In this way the doctrine of promissory estoppel cannot be used as a cause of action in itself as it does not act in a way that it confers new rights on the promisee, it only operates to prevent the promisor from fully enforcing their rights against the promisee, and in this way it acts as a shield, not a sword. The effect of promissory estoppel on the legal rights of the promisor is, in effect, to "suspend but not fully extinguish the promisor's strict legal rights,"15 enabling those rights to be re-established and resumed. This can only take place once reasonable notice has been given to the promisee of the intention of their plans and providing that the promisee is able to resume their previous position. In this way promissory estoppel ensures that the promisee is shielded from any unfair dealings of the promisor but the promisor is not in danger of any reverse action such as being sued. The statement "promissory estoppel may be used as a shield but not a sword," a well as being the most famous in reference to the use of promissory estoppel, is also very apt in the description of the way in which promissory estoppel works. ...read more.


from suffering detriment."24 1 Lord Denning LJ, Moorgate Mercantile v Twitchings [1976] 1 QB 225 2 Birkett LJ, Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 3 Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 4 Oxford English Dictionary, second edition 1989 5 Oxford English Dictionary, second edition 1989 6 Central London Property Trust v High Trees House Ltd [1947] K.B. 130 7 Hughes v Metropolitan Railway Co (1876-77) L.R. 2 App. Cas. 439 8 Birmingham & District Land Co v London & North Western Railway Co [1887] L.R. 34 Ch. D. 261 9 Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 10 Central London Property Trust v High Trees House Ltd [1947] K.B. 130 11 Lord Denning LJ, Combe v Combe [1951] 2 KB 215 12 Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 13 Lord Denning LJ, Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 14 Lord Denning LJ, Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 15 Tool Metal Manufacturing Co. Ltd. v Tungsten Electric Co. Ltd. [1995] 1 W.L.R. 7611 W.L.R. 761 16 "The offensive limits of promissory estoppel" Roger Halson, 1999 17 "The offensive limits of promissory estoppel" Roger Halson, 1999, p1. 18 Crabb v Arun D.C. [1976] Ch. 179, p.198. 19 Pinnel's Case [1602] 5 Co Rep 117a 20 Pinnel's Case [1602] 5 Co Rep 117a 21 Foakes v. Beer [1884] 9 App Cas 605. 22 Central London Property Trust v High Trees House Ltd [1947] K.B. 130 23 Combe v Combe [1951] 2 K.B. 215 24 Crabb v Arun D.C. [1976] Ch.179, p.189 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Contract Law section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Contract Law essays

  1. Proprietory estoppel

    PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL The principles lay down in equitable estoppel or in Hughes case was applied 70 years later by Denning J or later known as Lord Denning in High Trees case. In this case, Denning J had suggested in obiter dictum, that where a promise to accept less had been

  2. Promissory estoppel is a necessary supplement to the doctrine of consideration, because it enables ...

    Should the Stilk interpretation have been applied, the defendants would have most probably had to turn to promissory estoppel to enforce their unsupported promises for equity to prevail. Thus, since promises that were not part of the exchange can be conceived to confer a practical benefit via the benefit-detriment analysis, which suffices for good consideration, promissory estoppel is hardly necessary.

  1. Williams v. Roffey and Foakes v. Beer

    On that view, a contractual promise to perform is less valuable than its actual performance. Purchas LJ in Williams v. Roffey12 took this view, stating that it was open to the claimant to be in deliberate breach of the contract in order to "cut his losses" commercially.

  2. This paper discusses the start-up, organisation and conduct of the company "Anders & Birgitte" ...

    A&B purchased the design from DF, i.e. the scenario of a license agreement, or 2) DF was employed at the time of the incident. 4.1.1. A&B purchases the design The case states that "their designer friends had promised to deliver their Valentine's design to them by midday on February 713".

  1. What is the Doctrine of Consideration? Explain its relationship to theEquitable Doctrine of Promissory ...

    with the representation if by doing so the representee would be prejudiced. Promissory Estoppel therefore aims to enforce equitable rights of a party who has suffered some detriment through acting on a promise of the other party. Even though no consideration has been given and therefore no pre existing legal relationship exists.

  2. Promissory Estoppel

    However, the original contract suspended for the mean time will come into force when the circumstances of the promise no longer apply. Denning J therefore found that the defendants were bound to pay the original rent of £2,500 after the wartime and when the flats were substantially or fully let out.

  1. Passing of property

    This is the common law approach. (Rule 2) of Section 18 of the Sale of Goods Act states that where there is a contract for the sale of specific goods and the seller is bound to do something to the goods for the purpose of putting them into a deliverable

  2. "The rigid application of the Rule in Pinnel's Case has frequently caused hardship. ...

    The consideration must be made upon creditor's approval as it would be a benefit for him/her and a detriment for the debtor, thus the element of consideration. There are three exceptions to the rule in Pinnel's case, promissory estoppel being one.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work