Boustany v Pigott [1995]

Boustany v Pigott [1995] 69 P & CR 298 delved into the concept of an unconscionable bargain, emphasising that mere unfairness is insufficient; there must be evidence of morally reprehensible conduct in procuring the transaction.

The facts revolved around an elderly woman whose affairs were managed by her cousin. Seizing an opportunity when the cousin was away, the defendant invited the elderly woman to a tea party. During this event, the defendant employed flattery and provided transportation to a solicitor's office, where the elderly woman agreed to lease premises for a period of ten years at less than 1/6th of the market value. Notably, the elderly woman went against the advice of her solicitor, who had warned her against entering into the transaction.

The House of Lords, in their judgment, set aside the lease on the grounds of an unconscionable bargain. Lord Templeman clarified the criteria for such a finding, stating that the transaction must be proven to be unconscionable, indicating that one party imposed objectionable terms in a morally reprehensible manner affecting their conscience.

In the specific case, the defendant was found to have induced the elderly woman into agreeing to terms that they knew they could not extract from her cousin. Even when the solicitor pointed out the unfairness of the lease, the defendant failed to release the elderly woman from the bargain they had unfairly imposed. Lord Templeman emphasised that the defendant must have taken advantage of the elderly woman with the full knowledge that their conduct was morally reprehensible.

This case introduced a nuanced perspective by considering not only the traditional criteria for unconscionable bargain but also evaluating the quality of the party's conduct seeking to rely on the transaction. The continuous pressure on the elderly woman, despite legal advice, underscored the exceptional nature of the situation. The judgment exemplifies a departure from the strict application of previously established requirements, as seen in Fry v Lane [1888], and emphasises a more comprehensive assessment of the party's behaviour in securing the transaction.
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