April 2011 Archive

Inheritance rights of a cohabitee

The Law Commission has recommended that in certain circumstances, unmarried couples should have the same inheritance rights as spouses when a partner dies without making a will. Cohabitation is widespread and increasing. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of cohabiting couples in England and Wales will increase from 2.3 million in 2008 to 3.8 million in 2033. Yet the Law Commission has suggested that cohabitants are among the people least likely to have a will, meaning that surviving cohabitants are often left with nothing.

Property agreements must comply with competition law

In June 2010, the government amended competition law by introducing a statutory instrument, The Competition Act 1998 (Land Agreements Exclusion Revocation) Order 2010. This came into force on 6 April 2011 and as a result, all commercial property agreements will now have to comply with competition law and will no longer enjoy the benefit of any exclusion which was previously afforded to some agreements. Crucially, the new legislation applies to all property agreements, whether they were entered into before 6 April 2011 or not and therefore applies retrospectively to pre-existing contracts.

Can an entire agreement clause succeed in excluding misrepresentation?

The case of AXA Sun Life Services Plc v Campbell Martin Limited and Others (2011) has served as a useful reminder that an entire agreement clause must be completely unambiguous if it is to succeed in excluding liability for misrepresentation. An entire agreement clause is a standard clause commonly found in a contract which seeks to prohibit the parties from relying on anything, such as representations or statements (and particularly those made during the course of the negotiation of the contract), apart from that which is expressly stipulated within the contract itself.

Tips for contracting in a downturn

There are legal and commercial risks facing many businesses in the current economic climate, but there are certain steps that can be taken to control, and hopefully minimise these risks. Companies need to carry out proper evaluations and/or risk assessments before entering into any new contracts. They also need to review existing contractual arrangements to understand what terms have been agreed and what risks your business is exposed to.

Changes to the equine anti-doping rules

The British Equestrian Federation announced on the 9 March 2011 that they have released a new set of National Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication rules (BEFAR). These have been instigated by the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) and will affect all BEF Member Bodies in FEI disciplines. All these governing bodies will adhere to the same prohibited substances list, which will replicate the FEI list in its entirety for adherence at National level, sanctions and procedures.

Loans to directors of private companies

Under the Companies Act 1985 (the “1985 Act”) all companies were prohibited from making loans to their own directors, directors of their holding companies or persons connected with such directors. Under the 2006 Act the general prohibition on making loans to directors was removed and all companies are now permitted to make loans to their own directors or to directors of their holding companies, provided that shareholder approval is obtained.

The end of expert witness immunity

The nature of construction disputes is such that expert witnesses are often used to resolve them. For over 400 years expert witnesses have enjoyed immunity from being sued for negligence when acting as experts in legal proceedings. But on 30 March this year the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, brought that immunity to an abrupt end.
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