Sam Phillips successful in Chancery Appeal concerning Gifted Deposit Form’s impact on Beneficial Interests

30th November 2020

Thomas v Smalling [2020] EWHC 3816 (Ch)

Sam appeared for the successful Respondent, instructed by Sarah Cummins and Tamanna Begum of Anthony Gold Solicitors, in an appeal before Mr Justice Trower.

The parties disputed the beneficial interest of a property purchased with money provided by both parties. The Appellant alleged that a signed Gifted Deposit Form (“GDF”) was a sham. The then Claimant (represented by Sam) had been successful at a trial of the issue in the County Court in December 2019.

Dismissing the application for permission to appeal at a rolled-up hearing, the Court held that a GDF signed multiple weeks before a purchase would generally be determinative of beneficial interests (applying the reasoning of Briggs, LJ in Gany Holdings v Khan [2018] UKPC 21), regardless of an allegation that it was a sham, given that it was ‘all part of the documentation put together for the purposes of purchasing the property’ (para. 51 of the Judgment).

Mr Justice Trower also refused permission to appeal the ‘robust’ case management order of HHJ Luba QC who (applying Denton) refused relief from sanctions for a failure to serve witness statements on time, which had led to the Defendant being unable to call any evidence at trial where the key question of fact related to an oral agreement between the parties. Trower J held that failure of the Circuit Judge to expressly address the impact of the refusal of relief in his judgment was not a basis upon which the order could be impugned.

The judgment of the High Court not only confirms that GDFs (a common tool used when non-parties contribute to the deposit for a mortgaged property) can generally be relied upon as decisive (regardless of whether they were signed at the time of the purchase), but also that active and firm case management remains both necessary and appropriate, particularly given the pressure now on Courts in England and Wales.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.