Dicker v Scammell
Court of Appeal
Citations:  EWCA Civ 405;  3 All ER 838;  1 P & CR 4;  3 EGLR 61;  42 EG 236;  CLY 3382.
The parties were engaged in a boundary dispute. In 1994 they sought to settle the matter, and obtained a consent order from the court. This consent order set out how the dispute was to be resolved by reference to a map. There were several discrepancies between the map and the actual land. Also, a thick boundary line drawn on the map made it difficult to read. No matter how surveyors tried to implement the boundary line, there was always something wrong: such as the line being on the wrong side of a telegraph pole.
As a result, the parties could not agree on how to implement the order. Scammell ultimately challenged the order in court, arguing that it was void for uncertainty. They argued that the order was essentially an agreement to agree, since implementing it required the parties to agree on further matters.
- Was the order void for uncertainty?
The Court of Appeal held that the consent order was sufficiently certain. The court was able to work out a way of drawing the boundary line in a way which retained all the essential features of the consent order and therefore did justice to the parties’ agreement even if it was not exact. The agreement could be rendered certain through interpretation, so it was sufficiently certain.
This Case is Authority For…
That which can be rendered certain is certain. The fact that a contract is ambiguous is not enough for it to be deemed uncertain. It must be ‘legally or practically impossible to give to the parties’ agreement any sensible content.’
The court was influenced by the fact that land plans are always inaccurate to some degree, as a consequence of condensing a large area down into a much smaller map.