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Compromise

Compromise agreement

Finality

The Trustees in the Charity of Sir John Morden
[2007] EWCA Civ 4

Facts

This was a claim for specific performance of a compromise agreement made in 2002. That compromise was made on the basis that the defendant admitted that the claimant was owner of an "accessway extension". The defendant was now seeking to assert that he was not bound by the agreement because he said he was in fact already the owner of this bit of land by reason of adverse possession; ie that he was already the owner of what was purportedly given to him by the compromise agreement.

Decision

At the time of the compromise he set up no adverse title of his own to the land. His only claim, at that time, was to a right of way over it. In these proceedings he asserted that he had adverse title to this piece of land. However, the facts on which he relied were known to him at the time of the compromise agreement. He chose not to raise, then, the adverse title claim. And he obtained, under the compromise, an undisputed title to the accessway extension. Chadwick LJ at para 55:
    "In my view it is not, now, open to [the defendant] to assert, in effect, that he will not get what he bargained for under the compromise on the ground that, on a true understanding of the position at the time of the compromise agreement, he already had title by adverse possession to the accessway extension."
Lindsay J at para 65:
    "If, by way of a compromise of disputed issues as to ownership between two or more parties, one of the parties becomes, as between them, the undisputed owner, can he later seek to undo the compromise between the parties to it by claiming (or even proving) that, properly examined in the light of facts which he knew of at the time of the compromise but had chosen not then to have raised, his ownership had been indisputable? Unless a firm negative answer is given to that question countless compromises intended to avoid further litigation would prove to be little more than an irresistible invitation to yet later proceedings."

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