A Minefield for Industrial Relations?

AuthorWilliam M. Rees
Publication Date01 Jan 1987
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1987.tb02564.x
100
THE
MODERN
LAW
REVIEW
[Vol.
50
exclusively on the money she provided. There is also no suggestion
in
Grunt
that
Dobson
was wrong, but did Mrs. Dobson not do acts
to her detriment relating to their joint lives by foregoing her job
as a civil servant and becoming a full-time wife and mother? While
the courts demand contributions which are referable
to
the
acquisition of the house domestic activities can be excluded, but
once they are looking for acts, even only “detrimental” ones,
which do not have to be referable expenditure, then it should be
possible to include them. The Vice-Chancellor seems to admit this
in theory but was able to rely in
Grunt
on the substantial financial
contributions.
Finally, it must be noted. that the judges in
Grunt
were
considering the kind of case where the intention is not being
inferred from conduct.
Burns
is still authority for the non-
recognition of domestic work in cases of inferred intention and it is
in those cases that the greatest problems occur. In
Grunt
Mustill
L.J.
said that “examining the subsequent conduct
of
the parties to
see whether an inference can be made as to a bargain or intention
is quite different from examining the conduct of the claimant to see
whether it amounts to compliance with a bargain or intention
which has been proved in some other way.” This may be
so,
but
making this distinction led Nourse
L.J.
to
conclude that while Mrs.
Grant’s conduct was such that she could not reasonably have been
expected to embark on it unless she was to have an interest in the
house, he expressly
left
undecided whether,
if
the common intention
has not been made plain, the expenditure in this case would have
been sufficient from which to infer it. It is this kind of contradictory
metaphysical nicety which must be dealt with if the law on the
joint home is ever to demonstrate the clarity, realism and fairness
which it
so
desperately needs.
In
Grunt
and
Dobson
the Court has brought the requirement of
detriment to the centre of the stage. The result could be yet
further difficulties for the claimant in the joint home case, but
equally it could provide an opportunity for a more sympathetic
assessment of her position. The hard line taken in
Dobson
makes
one despair but some aspects
of
Grunt,
especially the Vice-
Chancellor’s comments on detriment, offer more hopeful possibili-
ties. This will depend, however, on the courts clarifying the
concepts they are using rather than mixing up aspects of constructive
trusts with an imprecise version
of
proprietary estoppel.
BRENDA SUFRIN*
A
MINEFIELD
FOR
INDUSTRIAL RELACIONS?
THE
National Coal Board, now known as “British Coal” (B.C.),
recently won an extremely important case for industrial relations in
*
Lecturer
in
Law,
University
of
Bristol.

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