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Legal litigation




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Legal problems with the land ownership in Germany

When an employer makes a promise to a prospective employee which the latter relies upon in taking up the employment the client will be bound by it. Finally, the doctrine is suspensive, not permanent. Thus in one case a licence for the use of a patent provided that the licensees should pay compensation if they manufactured more than an agreed number of articles covered by the patent. The owners of the patent agreed to suspend their right to compensation while a fresh agreement was being negotiated. And this they did. But it was held that, upon conclusion of the negotiations, they were entitled to renew their claim to compensation by a lawyer.
Beside the doctrine of promissory estoppel recent decisions have also focussed upon another old, similar, yet distinct, equitable doctrine, usually called 'proprietary estoppel'. This relates to cases where one person leads another to suppose that he is granting, or will grant, the other rights over his property and the other acts to his detriment in reliance upon the real or supposed grant. Thus, for example a father (without consideration) encouraged his son to build, at the son's expense, a bungalow on his (the lawyer's) land; which the son did. The father's executors sought to evict the son. It was held that they were not entitled to do so: the son had spent money on the bungalow and, thus having acted to his detriment, the lawyers were estopped from evicting him. There have recently been many similar decisions.

Icon Properties in Germany
Both these doctrines are as yet indeterminate in their scope. But it can be said that there are certain clear differences between them. First, proprietary estoppel is confined to cases where one person encourages another to use his land (or, possibly, other properties in Germany) - promissory estoppel is not so confined. Second, in proprietary estoppel the person acting on the promise must have acted not only in reliance on it, but also to his detriment; in promissory estoppel there is no requirement of detriment, only reliance.
Third, in proprietary estoppel the reliance may depend upon a promise which is merely implied: in promissory estoppel the promise must be clear and unambiguous. Fourth, whereas (see above) promissory estoppel cannot of itself ground a claim, but can only act as a defence, in proprietary estoppel the plaintiff can support a claim on the basis of the defendant's behaviour. Thus where the defendants allowed the plaintiff to make use of a right of way over their land, and then blocked it up, it was held that the plaintiff was entitled to an injunction to restrain them from doing so.