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Royal Bank of Scotland v Carlyle
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1 User Commentary

Melanie Davidson (In-house lawyer) 28 September 2015

Case Digest: Carlyle v Royal Bank of Scotland plc (Scotland) [2015] UKSC 13

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Whether, on an objective assessment of what the parties said to one another, the Royal Bank of Scotland intended to enter into a legally binding promise to lend Mr Carlyle money for the purchase and development of the plot

Judgment was handed down in the case of Carlyle v Royal Bank of Scotland plc (Scotland) [2015] UKSC 13 on 11 March 2015. Lord Hodge gave a unanimous judgment, with which Lord Neuberger, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke and Lord Reed agreed.

In the judgment, Lord Hodge recognised the limited power of an appellate court to reverse the findings of fact of a first instance judge. This is unless they were satisfied that they were plainly wrong; see the statements of Lord Thankerton at page 55 and Lord Macmillan at page 59 in Thomas v Thomas 1947 SC (HL) 45. The Second Division was not found to have an adequate basis for overturning the Lord Ordinary's findings of fact.

On an objective analysis of the issue before him, Lord Hodge had a reasonable evidential basis to conclude that the bank made a legally binding promise to provide development funding in a telephone call of 14 June 2007, between Mr Carlyle and Ms Hutchinson, representative of commercial banking. The bank had demonstrated intention to create a legally binding promise, in spite of the relatively ill-defined nature of the obligation to provide fungding for the development. Furthermore, the absence of the doctrine of consideration in Scots law meant that such a unilateral undertaking, being intended to have legal effect, was binding without consideration passing from the recipient of the promise. A legally binding obligation had been undertaken.

Appeal allowed. Interlocutor of the Second Division set aside. Case remitted to a commercial judge in the Court of Session.


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