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The concept of legal intention is something that has an extreme amount of emphasis laid on it in the law of contracts.


The concept of legal intention is something that has an extreme amount of emphasis laid on it in the law of contracts.[1] When visiting and understanding to what extent this intention can apply and to whom it can be applied as well as how one comes across the landmark case of Jones V. Padavatton. This case marks out how legal intention can never be assumed between family members unless and until it has been explicitly laid out. The aforementioned case will be analyzed along with the judgements of all the judges.

A brief recounting of the facts of the case

There is an issue of intention to create a legal contract between a mother and her daughter in this issue. Mrs Jones, the mother had asked her daughter, the now Mrs Padavatton to leave her job in the United States and come to the UK to study for the bar. The mother had further promised maintenance of 42 pounds of 200 dollars per week. On this basis, the daughter in November 1962 came to the UK and started her education. Whilst her stay and allowance was on due, there were housing issues that arose, whereby the rent for the place in which she and her son were staying was high. The funds themselves provided by Mrs Violette Jones did not cover that. To resolve this issue, the mother paying a substantial mortgage from her house in Trinidad buys a house under her name and allows the daughter to stay in one room and also sees that the other rooms can be rented and leased. A very important aspect to note is that despite being a new apartment, there was a severe shortage of funds in terms of furniture. Both the times of 1963 and august 1967, during her visit Mrs Jones never received the rent from Padavatton. [2] Upon consultation and retaliation that her daughter failed the bar exam on, July 4, 1967, a summons was issued to Mrs Padavatton, to quit the house by March. A counterclaim dated August 11, 1967, which was amended on February 21, 1968, was delivered.  In these counterclaims the daughter demands she be reimbursed for the cost she incurred on furnishing the flat with her own money, due to insufficient funds. The amount was a 1,655-pound reimbursement that Mrs Padavatton claims. The case on January 11, 1968- The county court judges ruled in favour of Mrs Padavatton, thereby dismissing the claim of the possession or desire to possess the house[3]. He gave judgment on the counterclaim in favour of the daughter and referred the matter to the registrar. The judge further ruled in favour of the daughter’s counterclaim, clearly resonating, and understanding her story. The appeal has been made and the judgement has been written by Justice Danckwerts.


The issues in the case can be looked at from two different perspectives.

  1. The daughter, Mrs Padavatton, claimed that there was an agreement formed between her and her mother that was a legally binding one as the consideration for her coming to the UK to attempt the bar was the housing that Mrs Jones provided for her.
  2. Mrs Padavatton further claimed the intention to create a contract was present therefore it is legally binding
  • Mrs Jones, refusing this statement picked the stance that there was no intention to form a contract and even if the said intention was in place, the contract in itself is too vague to be enforceable.

the issues themselves primarily revolve around the validity of the contract and the intention to create a legally binding relationship or enter into such an agreement.

Procedural history

The case, as previously mentioned in the facts was first taken to the county court after a summons and a notice to evacuate the house was issued to Mrs Padavatton on July 4th, 1967and March 20th, 1967, respectively. Mrs Padavatton soon filed a counterclaim which was amended on February 21, 1968. The county court, after hearing held the case in favour of Mrs. Padavatton on January 11, 1968, effectively dismission Mrs Jones’s claim for possession of the house. On Nov 11th, 1968, the first hearing date for the appeal filed by Mrs Jones was in session. The appeal was filed by Jones in the court of appeal. The highest court within the senior courts of England and whales, second only to the very supreme court of the United Kingdom.

Observations made by the judges

As accounted for and observed by the three judges overseeing this case, namely Danckwerts, Salmon and Fenton Atkinson L.JJ. there were two issues to be discussed, 1. Were the arrangements and agreement made to produce a legally binding agreement or was it nothing more than a family arrangement made with care and in bona fide with no intention for being legally accountable? 2. Was the arrangement extremely obscure and extremely uncertain, that even if said agreement was legally binding and has legal validity, it could not be enforced? [4]

In the judgement, judge Danckwerts seems to have specifically used the argument of the Balfour vs. Balfour case where it was held that a defence or intention to form a legal agreement will be rebutted and questioned if the relationship is domestic to draw a parallel to this case. The judges resonated with this judgement and held that this case falls in the same paradigm as the current case on hand. Danckwerts further goes on to say that this petition needs to be allowed as the agreement about the housing was not a fresh one, rather it was an extension of the original agreement to finance the daughter’s education. Justice Danckwerts further says the mother has the house and the daughter must get reimbursed for the extra expenditure she spent on the house.

Justice Salmon agreed that the appeal should be allowed and the fact the ownership and possession of the house was indeed the mothers. Judge salmon held that while in the case of Balfour v Balfour it was adjudged that the relationship of legal intent cannot be determined in cases where the promiser and promise are relative and make the agreement in good faith. He further also takes in the rebuttal judgements provided by the defendant, Shadwell v. Shadwell[5] and Parker v. Clark[6]. Here Shadwell v. Shadwell was dismissed as the case did not have the relevant facts that could be in the same paradigm of the current facts at hand. J.L. Salmon answered the two questions posed. He agrees with the appellant and concurs that the agreement was made with only good intentions and an intention to get closer to both her daughter and grandson, therefore there was no intention of forming a legal contract, the agreement was also extremely unclear and obscure as there was a flaw in the understanding of dollar, where the dollar in Trinidad holds a different value from that of the United States one. Due to these reasons and the subsequent answering of the two questions, J.L. Salmon allows the appeal and prays for the case to end amenably with regards to the counterclaim.

The last judge to comment was Fenton Atkinson L.J. He too held that the appeal should be allowed. He viewed as presented before him, the relationship between the mother and the daughter to be quite amenable and good.[7] With this being established there was no requirement for a legal relationship between the parties and the parties initially agreed with not a legal motive but rather a motive for a mother to aid her daughter. The second question that is posed by the courts concerning enforceability too was answered by judge Atkinson. He seconded the argument posed by salmon on the account that there was a misunderstanding of the word ‘dollar’ as well as the fact that there seems to be a lot of vagaries surrounding how long the contract must be available, what happens if the rest is not enough, how much was the daughter to charge for her rent? These questions made the entire contract and agreement vague. Therefore, on these two accounts, Atkinson J.L. allowed the appeal and believed that an agreement about the counterclaim ought to be made where both the parties to compromise.


The case was ruled in favour of the appellant and Mrs Jones won the case whereby the house will now be in her possession. The case was won primarily because there cannot be a legally valid contract if there was no intention to form one in the first place and there is a strong possibility that members of a family do not intend to get into legally binding agreements.[8] Therefore Mrs Jones is in possession of the house.


The case of Jones V Padavatton is a widely used one even in India as there is a connection between the contract laws of the United Kingdom and that of India. The case revolving around how family members make promises in many cases not to make a legally binding contract but with good intention is a landmark judgement and gives a lot of credibility to the notion of intention and legal intention. This is essential to the law of contracts and the said case only goes on to prove its importance.

Author(s) Name: Dheekshanya A (Tamil Nadu National Law University (TNNLU))


[1] Indian contract act 1972, S.2

[2] Jones V. Padavatton, [1969] 1 W.L.R 328

[3] Jones V. Padavatton, (1969) 1 W.L.R 328

[4] Jones V. Padavatton, (1969) 1 W.L.R 328

[5] Shadwell v. Shadwell (1860) 9 C.B.N.S. 159

[6] Parker v. Clark (1960) 1 W.L.R. 286

[7]Jones V. Padavatton, (1969) 1 W.L.R 336

[8] Jones V. Padavatton, (1969) 1 W.L.R 328- 334