A judge has refused to rectify a land transfer between an elderly farmer and his son after rejecting the former’s plea that he had intended the latter only to receive 30 ‘bare acres’ and that part of the farmyard, including buildings, had been mistakenly included in the transfer.
The dispute revolved around possession of a farmyard and outbuildings near Shaftesbury, and Mr Justice Morgan said that it had ‘set father against son, brother against brother’. Farming partners Richard Walby, 82, and his son, Andrew, alleged that a key part of the 230-acre farm had been mistakenly transferred to another of Mr Walby’s sons, Malcolm.
Lawyers for the partners argued that, as a result of an error in a 1989 deed by which Mr Walby transferred portions of the farm to his sons, Malcolm had become titular owner of just over 31 acres of the farm – including its main access way, outbuildings and a significant part of the farmyard – although the intention had been to transfer only 30 acres of undeveloped farmland to him.
Mr Walby – who has dyslexia – claimed in evidence that he had relied on his secretary to do his paperwork and that she had wrongly ‘marked up’ the relevant plan which detailed how much land was to be transferred to Malcolm. Mr Walby argued that a crucial boundary line had been marked in the wrong place on the plan and that, as a result, Malcolm had mistakenly become owner of the ‘heart’ of the farm.
However, refusing to rectify the transfer deed, Mr Justice Morgan said that Mr Walby had given clear instructions to his solicitor to confer the disputed parcel of land on Malcolm. He ruled that there had been ‘no mistake of expression’ in the transfer deed, which accurately reflected Mr Walby’s contemporary intentions.