Ajayi (t/a Colony Carrier Co) v RT Briscoe (Nigeria) Ltd
Privy Council (Nigeria)
Citations:  UKPC 39;  1 WLR 1326;  3 All ER 556; (1964) 108 SJ 857;  CLY 1357.
The claimant and defendant entered into a hire-purchase contract for the supply of lorries. When the defendant starting having technical problems with the lorries, the claimant wrote them a letter agreeing to suspend instalment payments while the lorries were not in service. They stated that they hoped to have proper facilities to repair the lorries soon. The claimant allegedly repaired the lorries and asked the defendant to collect them, but the defendant refused. The defendant denied that this was true.
The defendant refused to pay any further instalments when the claimant asked. The claimant sued the defendant for the unpaid instalments. The defendant argued that they were barred from doing this, because the claimant’s letter had created a promissory estoppel.
- Was the claim barred by promissory estoppel?
The Privy Council held in favour of the claimant. The defendant failed to establish promissory estoppel because he had provided no evidence that he had altered his position in reliance on the letter. Additionally, the defendant failed to prove that the lorries were unavailable to them after the claimant repaired them. Had there been a promissory estoppel, it would have terminated then and the obligation to pay the instalments would have become live once more.
This Case is Authority For…
To establish promissory estoppel, the defendant must demonstrate that they have changed their position in reliance on the claimant’s representation. Additionally, the claimant can resile from their representation if they give the defendant reasonable notice that they want to rely on their legal rights again, so long as this reasonably allows the defendant to resume their original position. This notice can be informal.
This case shows that the burden of proving promissory estoppel is on the party who seeks to rely on it. The defendant had to prove that the claimant had not given notice that the lorries were repaired. He failed to do this.