May 1, 2015

Cohabitants appeal for property claim ends in failure

In Curran v Collins, the cohabiting couple had been in a relationship from 1977 until their breakup in 2010.

Over the course of their 33-year relationship, the couple bred Airedale Terriers. After their relationship broke down, Mr Collins agreed to pay £3,500 for half the value of the dogs, but said Ms Curran had no claim on any of the three properties that they had spent time in as a couple.

Mr Collins had bought the properties in his sole name and had, when Ms Curran questioned him about the names on the deeds, “told her expressly that the property would be owned by him alone”.

A judge at the Central London County Court agreed with Mr Collins and denied Ms Curran’s claim to a share. This resulted in Ms Curran taking her case to the Court of Appeal.

Her lawyer argued that the initial judge “had no rational basis for discounting Ms Curran’s evidence in the circumstances”. She also accused the judge of forming a negative opinion of Ms Curran before her evidence had been fully heard.

Additionally, Ms Curran claimed that the original judge had focused too much on financial contributions and not on the work Ms Curran had carried out in the kennels business the couple had run together.

Ms Curran’s case at trial was that there was an agreement or understanding that she should have a half share in the properties. She claimed that she had made significant financial contributions by as her wages were used to pay household bills, which included mortgage repayments.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lady Justice Arden said that “any appellant who challenges [a] judge’s finding on credibility has a particularly difficult task” and that the Court of Appeal “could only properly interfere if the judge were wrong”.

As for the finances, the judge ruled that the initial case “expressly went beyond mere financial contributions” in its scope and that Ms Curran “simply seeks to re-argue points on which the judge found against [her]”.

Lady Justice Arden said that the overall evidence supported the initial judge’s findings and therefore dismissed the appeal.

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