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Property Law Property Purchases and Sales

Signing a Contract in Trust Where Principal Did Not Exist-Interesting Court of Appeal Decision

Signing contract in trust

The Court of Appeal handed down an interesting decision in this case involving the sale of land.

The facts were that Mr Gibbons was selling real property and Mr Doherty signed the contract for sale in trust and on behalf of a limited company. Mr Gibbons then nominated the beneficiary of the trust and the purchaser as ADT Investments Limited.

ADT Investments Limited was unable to complete the purchase and Mr Gibbons then sued Mr Doherty and ADT Investments Limited for specific performance of the contract. Mr Gibbons argued that as the company was not incorporated at the time of execution of the contract by Mr Doherty he was entitled to sue Mr Doherty in his personal capacity for specific performance.

The High Court refused to agree with Mr Gibbons who then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court decision and dismissed the appeal.

The Court of Appeal held General Condition 30 of the Law Society General Conditions of Sale, 2001 Edition permits a person to sign a contract in trust or as agent.

And importantly it does not expressly provide that the beneficiary or principal be in existence at the time of the contract. It also observed that that commercial reality sometimes demands that contracts be signed in trust and once the principal is in existence to complete the transaction there is no obvious problem.

You can read the full decision of the court of Appeal here (Gibbons -v- Doherty & anor [2019] IECA 275)