In the Estate of Park, decd. Park v Park

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE SINGLETON,LORD JUSTICE BIRKETT,LORD JUSTICE HODSON
Judgment Date02 November 1953
Judgment citation (vLex)[1953] EWCA Civ J1102-1

[1953] EWCA Civ J1102-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Before:

Lord Justice Singleton

Lord Justice Birkett, and

Lord Justice Hodson

re Park, deceased. Park

Park
and
Park. (Hatton and Others cited.)

Counsel for the Appellant: MR CYRIL SALMON, Q.C., MR JOHN LATEY and MISS HELEN SHORE, instructed by Messrs Lewis W. Taylor & Co.

Counsel for the Respondent: MR GILBERT BEYFUS, Q.C., and MR C.A. MARSHALL-REYNOLDS, instructed by Messrs Ager & Ager.

Counsel for the Parties Cited: MR R.L. BARNARD, instructed by Messrs Pritchard Englefield & Co.

1

JUDGMENT.

LORD JUSTICE SINGLETON
2

This is a deplorable case. Mr Robert John Charles Park died on the 17th June, 1949. Litigation in regard to his estate is still proceeding. Mr Park had been a successful business man. He was head of, and owned most of the shares in, a private company which carried on the business of shipping brokers and paokers. He was 78 years old when he died. His first wife, to whom he had been happily married for over 50 years, died in January, 1948. There were no children. On the 25th May, 1948, he had a stroke which affected him seriously, and he was not able to attend to important matters of business thereafter. He recovered to some extent, but he suffered a further attack in March, 1949. On the 1st March, 1948, he had made a Will under which he had appointed two of the partners in a firm of solicitors, Mr Culross and Mr Trelawny, in whom he placed confidence, as Executors and Trustees. No one has raised any question as to his condition at that time, and it has not been suggested that he did not understand and approve of the contents of that Will, complicated though its provisions were. By that Will he left bequests to relatives, friends and employees and several sums to charities, and an annuity of £300 a year to a sister who has since died, and he provided, as far as possible, that his Executors should be Governing Directors of the Company for life at a salary of £350 a year plus 10 per cent. of the net profits of the Company to each of them. That provision, no doubt, when it was known, would not be very well received by those who are responsible for the ordinary running of the Company, as, indeed, the evidence shows. Mr Park was a member of the Devonshire Club, and he used to go there for lunch and for dinner frequently. The cashier at the Club was Miss Blodwen Wyn Hughes. AtEaster or Whitsuntide, 1949, when there were very few people in the Club he commiserated with her that they should be the only two people left in London. Undoubtedly, he was lonely, and he was not well. On or about the 7th May he took her for a drive to Hawkhurst, and the next day he told his chauffeur-valet: "That lady we had in the car, I am going to marry her. If she don't marry me I will commit suicide." The chauffeur said: "Well, I don't think you even know the lady yet, Sir." A few days later, on the 10th May, there was another drive, this time to Woodcock Park, and in the hearing of the chauffeur he proposed marriage to her. There was no division between the chauffeur and those at the back of the car. The proposal was made immediately he got into the car. According to her evidence she was somewhat diffident about accepting his proposal, but on the 13th May he gave her an engagement ring and £500, and the ring, it is said, was put on her finger in the presence of Mr Culross, the solicitor. Mr Park went away to Bexhill for a few days. On his return on the 25th May she took up residence in his flat. There had been discussions with the solicitor as to a settlement, and it had been decided that 2,000 Preferred Ordinary Shares in his Company (worth approximately £6,000) should be settled upon her, which she thought was satisfactory. She said, in the course of her evidence: "Most of it had been discussed before. I was outside the room for about a quarter of an hour and most of the business had been discussed, and then I joined them, and as far as I could see everything was satisfactory and Mr Park had said: 'Yes, everything is correct and done', you see. But as far as the actual figures had been concerned it had gone through before I went into the room, you see." There is no doubt that he thought hewas married to her at that time; indeed, he thought he was married to her from the 13th May; that was spoken of as a defusion.

3

The lady was asked in the Court below: "There is one matter on which I want particularly to ask you. Part of your evidence has been read and it is clear from that that you said at the last trial that on occasions at any rate Mr Park thought he had been married to you earlier than the date at which he was actually married? (A) Yes, I did say that. (Q) Was that as a result of things that the late Mr Park said — 'Yes' or 'No'? (A) Yes. (Q) Will you tell my Lord words he said and on what occasions that led you to say that he thought that he was married to you earlier? (A) Mr Park and always had in his lifetime everything he wanted, and when he gave me the ring on the 13th you see I had said:

4

mean after midnight, or after ten? (A) We used to retire early — ten o'clock — from say ten o'clock. (Q) After you had both gone to bed? (A) After we had both gone to bed. (Q) He came into your bedroom? (A) He came in. He was dressed in a white bath robe which used to sort of frighten the life out of me, and then this went on during the night perhaps five or six times during the night. (Q) What did you say or what did he say? (A) He came into the bedroom expecting me to fondle him, and I was a bit worried in my mind but I did not say anything to him that night, and that night passed. The same thing happened on the Friday night, and the same thing happened on the Saturday night, and then of course I locked my door and he used to rattle the door all through the night. (Q) What I have been asking you is what did he say? (A) He did not say very much. All he wanted to do was to pet and fondle me, you see, and since we were married it was perfectly all right for you to go ahead. (Q) Is that what he said? (A) Yes. To his way of thinking once I had said 'Yes' to his engagement it was just the same as being married." She added it never occurred to her that he was not fit mentally to get married.

5

Mr Turnbull, a Director of the Company, thought that Mr Park understood the arrangements made for the settlement, though he did nothing except gaze vacantly, or smile vacantly, at the lady, and practically took no part in the conversation at the time when the settlement was made. The settlement was executed at the solicitors' office on Saturday, the 28th May. On that day Mr Park's condition was very bad. Mr Turnbull thought that his affairs ought to be looked after by Trustees, as he might sign something without knowing its contents.

6

The story of how the settlement came to be signed is an amazing one. It is given by Mr Turnbull at Day Three, page 9. Mr Turnbull was asked: "It is not on the question of understanding a long document, Mr Turnbull. I am suggesting to you that on the last occasion you said that as Mr Park really did not know what he was doing it was time his affairs were taken over? (A) It is quite right, I did. (Q) Did you say that he was mentally enfeebled when he signed the settlement? (A) Yes, he was. (Q) That was on the 28th May, two days before the wedding. Was he so mentally enfeebled on that day that he did not know what he was doing? (A) On that Saturday morning, I agree. (Q) Is this a pretty fair description of what happened on that Saturday morning. Did you try to explain what you were getting him to sign? (A) Mr Culross did. (Q) That is to say that you were setting 2,000 shares? (A) Yes. Mr Culross tried to get him to repeat that? (A) Yes. (Q) And all the poor old man said to him was 'I am giving her £4,000'. Then Mr Culross would explain again 'No, you are not. Repeat after me 'You are setting 2,000 shares'. (A) Yes, that is quite right. (Q) And then Mr Culross would say to him 'What are we doing' and he would say 'We are giving her the works.' Did Mr Culross finally finish up by shrugging his shoulders and saying 'It's hopeless, let us get him to sign to get it finished? (A) Yes, he did. (Q) And did you agree with that? (A) Yes. (Q) Did you think he was fit to get married on that day? (A) No, I do not think so; not on Saturday morning, no. (Q) He was obviouslyhopeless on the Saturday morning? (A) He was very bad. (Q) He was not much better on the day of the wedding mentally? (A) On, yes; he was a lot better on the day of the wedding. (Q) Would it be true to say that on the day of the wedding he was not quite so and as on the Saturday? (A) Yes. (Q) Not quite so bad? (A) No, not quite so bad. (Q) But still verybad? (A) Yes, he was bad, yes. (Q) He was always bad but he was better at times than others. He used to get better as the day went on. He was always bad first thing in the morning."

7

Mr Turnbull made arrangements for the wedding reception on the Monday. Meanwhile, the lady had made arrangements with the Registrar for the wedding to take place at the Kensington Registry on Monday the 30th May at 11 o'clock in the morning. On the Sunday morning Mr Park was up in good time and wishing to pat on his morning coat, as he thought he was going to be married that day. On the Monday morning he was up coat 4 o'clock in the morning helping to prepare the room for the reception, according to the lady's evidence. The wedding ceremony took place as arranged. The Certificate show that Mr Culross, the solicitor, and Mr Ernest R. Park (who was a brother or a half-brother) were the two who signed as witnesses. There were a number of people present, as is shown by the photograph. The photograph shows not only the bride and the bridegroom, cut the bride's sister in front, and behind Mr and Mrs Culross, Mr Turnbull, a Director of the Company, and Mr Eisey, another Director, McGrath, the...

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