Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2013-14
Mistaken Gifts after Pitt v Holt
Dr Birke Häcker (Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance)
Chaired by The Rt Hon Lord Justice Lloyd
Thursday 13 February 2014
from 6 - 7pm
The recent Supreme Court decision in Pitt v Holt  UKSC 26 has put into sharp focus a question which has vexed English lawyers for some time: when can a donor recover a gift mistakenly made? Their Lordships ruled that there had to be a ‘causative mistake of sufficient gravity’. In the light of this ruling, the lecture will explore and try to systematise the principal competing approaches towards the recovery of mistaken gifts and to assess their underlying assumptions. How can we distinguish between mistakes which are sufficiently serious and those that are not, and what are the implications of Pitt v Holt for the law of gifts more generally? It will be argued that a pure causative mistake test may in fact be preferable to the two-stage inquiry adopted by Pitt v Holt. Properly handled, such a test could accommodate many of the concerns that often drive the call for an additional criterion of ‘sufficient gravity’.
Biography of the speaker
Birke Häcker is a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance, Munich, and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her main research interests pertain to general private and business law, comparative law and legal history. Birke holds degrees in both English law (University of Oxford) and German law (University of Bonn) and has published extensively in different areas of private and comparative law, esp. on contract, unjust enrichment, property, and succession. Her Oxford doctorate entitled Consequences of Impaired Consent Transfers, which first appeared as a monograph in 2009 (Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen), is about to be republished (Hart Publishing, Oxford).
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