Lord denning

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, Baron Denning, OM, PC, DL (23 January 1899 – 5 March 1999), commonly known as Lord Denning, was a British soldier, mathematician, lawyer and judge. He gained degrees in mathematics and law at Oxford University, although his studies were disrupted by his service in the First World War. He then began his legal career, distinguishing himself as a barrister and becoming a King's Counsel in 1938.

He became a judge in 1944 with an appointment to the Family Division of the High Court of Justice and was made a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1948 after fewer than five years in the High Court. He became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1957 and after five years in the House of lords returned to the Court of Appeal as Master of the Rolls in 1962, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement he wrote several books and continued to offer opinions on the state of the common law through his writing and his position in the House of lords.

One of the most publicly known judges thanks to his report on the Profumo Affair, Denning was held in high regard by much of the judiciary, the Bar and the public, and was noted for his bold judgments running counter to the law at the time. During his 38 year career as a judge he made large changes to the common law, particularly while in the Court of Appeal, and although many of his decisions were overturned by the House of lords several of them were confirmed by Parliament, who passed statutes in line with his judgments. Although appreciated for his role as 'the people's judge' and his support for the individual, Denning was also controversial for his campaign against the common law principle of precedent and as Master of the Rolls for his conflict with the House of lords.

A ==list of cases involving Lord Denning== is bound to be incomplete, since he delivered around 2000 reported judgments. Lord Denningserved as a judge for nearly 40 years, from 1944 to 1982. He often played a decisive role in developing the Law and was influential around the Commonwealth and common law world.


  • L'estrange v f graucob ltd [1934] 2 KB 394

High Court

  • Fletcher v fletcher [1945] 1 All ER 582, 61 TLR 354, Denning approves the divorce of a husband who deserted wife by withdrawing sexual intercourse and joining a religious community.
  • Central london property trust ltd v high trees house ltd [1947] KB 130, Denning resurrects the lost doctrine of Promissory estoppel.

Court of Appeal

  • Hain steampship co ltd v minister of food [1949] 1 All ER 444 (C.A.)
  • Olley v marlborough court hotel [1949] 1 KB 532
  • Metropolitan borough and the town clerk of lewisham v roberts [1949] 2 K.B. 608 (C.A.) — Dissenting, an executive body should not be allowed to gain title of a man's land if only possession was required for their purpose.
  • Solle v butcher [1950] 1 KB 671, introducing equitable mistake, whereby a contract may be voidable if both parties have made a serious mistake
  • Leaf v international galleries [1950] 2 KB 86
  • Candler v crane, christmas & co [1951] 2 KB 164, on negligent misstatement, later adopted by the House of lords in Hedley byrne v heller
  • Errington v errington (1951) KB, creating the Equity (law)|equitable doctrine of "part performance" to save an incomplete contract.
  • Combe v combe (1952), elaborating stance on Promissory estoppel, calling it a "shield", not a "sword".
  • R v northumberland compensation tribunal, ex parte shaw (1952)
  • Hoenig v isaacs [1952] EWCA Civ 6 i
  • Barnard v national dock labour board (1953)
  • Frederick e rose (london) ltd v william h pim junior & co ltd [1953] 2 QB 450
  • Drive-yourself-hire v strutt [1953] 2 All ER 1475
  • Roe v minister of health [1954] 2 All ER 131
  • Entores ltd v miles far east corporation [1955] 2 All ER 493 — Decides that the "moment of acceptance" in a contract using a Telex (electronic communication) happens on the receiver's side.
  • Ward v byham (1956)
  • Hornal v neuberger [1956]
  • J spurling ltd v bradshaw [1956] 1 WLR 461

House of lords

  • Scottish co-operative wholesale society ltd v meyer [1959] AC 324, on the predecessor to Unfair prejudice in Uk company law
  • Scruttons ltd v midland silicones ltd [1962] AC 446, dissenting over the Privity Of Contract doctrine.
  • Fairweather v st marylebone property co ltd [1963] AC 510 (decided 16 April 1962, the last case in the HL) concerning Adverse possession

Master of the Rolls

  • In re smith or Barclays bank ltd v mercantile bank ltd [1962] 1 WLR 763, decided on May 1 1962, reversed the decision of Wilberforce j that a trust requiring trustees to give money to "hospitals" could be construed as "non-profit" hospitals, so was not void for uncertainty.
  • Boulting v association of cinematograph, television and allied technicians [1963] 2 QB 606, dissenting over a closed shop agreement and managers refusing to pay union fees
  • Roles v nathan [1963] 1 WLR 1117, occupiers' liability case on chimney sweeps.
  • Letang v cooper [1964] 2 All ER 292
  • Southam v smout [1964] 1QB 308
  • Ward v james [1965]
  • D & c builders ltd v rees (1965), To resolve a debt there must be "Accord and satisfaction" where the agreement cannot be made under duress.
  • Beswick v beswick [1966] Ch. 538, Denning allows a poor widow to reclaim the assets of her late husband when it was taken from her husband's nephew (disapproved in [1968] AC 58).
  • Morris v cw martin & sons ltd [1966] 1 QB 716
  • Wheat v e lacon & co ltd [1966] 1 All ER 582; defines "occupier" for the purposes of Occupiers' liability act 1957.
  • Boardman v phipps, on the strict application of the no conflict of interest rule for trustees, affirmed by the House of lords.
  • Er ives investments ltd v high [1967] 2 QB 379
  • Gallie v lee [1968] 2 All ER 322
  • Torquay hotel co ltd v cousins [1969] 2 Ch 106, on the new economic tort of "interference with a contract"
  • Gould v gould [1970] 1 QB 275, dissenting on the idea that a husband's promise to help out his wife "as long as [he is] able" should be enforceable.
  • Hinz v berry [1970] 1 All ER 1074
  • Lewis v averay (1971), the purchaser of stolen goods should not bear the costs of re-embursing the victim of theft.
  • Thornton v shoe lane parking ltd [1971] 2 QB 163
  • Nettleship v weston [1971] 3 All ER 581, a learner driver must exercise the skill of an experienced driver to avoid liability in negligence.
  • Wj allan & co v el nasr export & import co [1972] 2 QB 189
  • Fuller v fuller [1973] 1 WLR 730, changed divorce law. Married couples are only cohabiting if they are living with each other as husband and wife.
  • Spartan steel & alloys ltd v martin & co (contractors) ltd [1973] 1 QB 27, concerning the recovery of Pure economic loss in Negligence.
  • Jarvis v swans tours ltd [1973] QB 233
  • Lloyds bank ltd v bundy (1975) QB
  • Courtney and fairbairn ltd v tolaini brothers (hotels) ltd [1975] 1 All ER 716, a contract cannot have terms that are to be negotiated on at a later point.
  • British crane hire corporation ltd v ipswich plant hire ltd [1975] QB 303
  • Liverpool city council v irwin [1976] UKHL 1
  • Anton piller kg v manufacturing processes limited [1976] Ch 5
  • Rose v plenty [1976] 1 WLR 141
  • Miller v jackson [1977] QB 966, that cricket was in the public interest and stray cricket balls were not a nuisance.
  • Esso petroleum co ltd v mardon [1976] QB 801, representations made by parties with expert knowledge and experience are warranties in a contract.
  • British railways board v customs and excise comrs [1977] STC 221, [1977] 2 All ER 873, zero rating for VAT purposes is a question of law not fact.
  • Parsons (livestock) ltd v uttley ingham & co ltd [1978] QB 791
  • Butler machine tool co ltd v ex-cell-o corp ltd [1979] 1 All ER, Battle of the forms case, where Denning argued the mirror image rule for offer and acceptance is outdated.
  • Brikom investments v carr [1979]
  • Quennell v maltby [1979] WLR 318, asserted that equity conferred a wide, previously unrecognised, discretion to restrain the mortgagee from exercising the right to possession for purposes other than the protection or enforcement of his security.
  • Photo productions v securicor ltd [1980] All ER 556
  • Ahmad v united kingdom (1982) 4 EHRR 126
  • Attorney general of new zealand v ortiz [1982] 3 WLR 570; [1982] 3 All ER 432, beautiful scene setting description of the Maori treasure at the heart of this case.
  • George mitchell (chesterhall) ltd v finney lock seeds ltd [1982] 3 WLR 1036, classic opener with a quote from Lewis carroll, later on is his infamous speech on the worship of the idol of "Freedom of contract". Seed merchants could not rely on damage limitation clause to just the cost of the seeds. This was Lord Denning's lastest published decision.