George Woodhead

Call: 2009

George is an experienced chancery barrister, specialising in property, commercial and contested probate and trusts cases. Much of his work concerns ‘domestic’ disputes between families, couples and business partners.

George is noted for his clear advice, strategy and determination to succeed. His advocacy and written work are in high demand from a broad range of clients. Testament to George’s expertise, whether on paper or in the courtroom, is the very high proportion of repeat business from solicitors who value George’s pro-activity and user-friendly attitude.

  • Commercial

    George is regularly instructed by commercial clients, often where there is a property or trust aspect to the issue in question.  He was recently instructed as junior counsel to Clifford Darton QC in an appeal to the Court of Appeal (UK Learning Academy Ltd v Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWCA Civ 370) concerning non-oral modification clauses, estoppel, statements of case and the decision of the Supreme Court in MWB v Rock Advertising [2018] 2 WLR 1603.

    George has particular experience in the following areas:

    (i) share purchase agreements: e.g. Gobbee v Covell (Brighton County Court) (2019), concerning the sale of an interest in a hotel in East Sussex and the correct interpretation of a Share Purchase and Settlement Agreement);

    (ii) freezing injunctions: e.g. (1) Cladern Limited; (2) Makar v LDC Partners Limited (2018) (QBD) (successfully obtained undertakings following application for freezing injunction which led to subsequent settlement of substantial debt claim and proposed s. 994 petition);

    (iii) partnership disputes: Arabi v (1) Arabi (2) JK Estates (2018) (ChD);

    (iv) s.994 petitions and director disputes: e.g. Lewis v Clarke (2020) (ChD, ICC);

    (v) sale of goods and services: e.g. Lydon Contracting Limited v Lombard Finance Limited and Electro Services Limited: 5-day trial concerning the sale of welfare units for use at construction site & Platinum VIP London Limited v Amari Lifestyle Limited (2018) (CLCC): dispute concerning ownership and conversion of a Ferrari F355;

    (vi) building and construction disputes (EAC Group of Companies v Davis Contstruction (South East) Limited (2020) (CLCC, TCC List);

    (vii) claims arising out of the sale of land;

    (viii) contractual interpretation and rectification: e.g. Martin v Posener [2017] EWHC 2320 (dispute concerning the provision of funding for research into potential claims for compensation from German organisations in relation to the confiscation of assets belonging to German Jews by the Nazi regime);

    (ix) insurance disputes: e.g. advising three businesses in relation to their insurance policies and the effects of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic; and

    (x) general contractual disputes: ACM Managed Services v EMS Services Limited (2020) (Chelmsford CC): dispute concerning agency workers and recruitment contracts.

  • Company & Partnership

    George regularly deals with clients in disputes with directors, shareholders and partners and has particularly experience in disputes between members of a family business.  For example:

    (1) Cladern Limited (2) Makar v LDC Partners Limited (2018) (High Court, QBD) – successfully obtained undertakings following application for freezing injunction which led to subsequent settlement of substantial debt claim and proposed s. 994 petition.

    Arabi v (1) Arabi (2) JK Estates (2018) (ChD) (2018) – successfully represented C in a claim for an account following trial. The case concerned complex accounting between two brothers and an estate agency following the trial of a dispute concerning a number of properties and trusts.

    Dooley v Norris & Ors (2019) (ChD)– ongoing section 994 petition.

    Lewis v Clarke (High Court, Insolvency and Companies Court) (2020) – ongoing proceedings brought pursuant to ss. 994 and 996 of the Companies Act 2006.

    Squirrel v Arron (2018) (Central London County Court) – ToLATA dispute concerning residential property with attached business with issues including rectification of share register.

  • Landlord & Tenant

    George’s work in the field of landlord and tenant ranges from Rent Act disputes to contested lease renewals under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.  George has particular experience in advising on the enforceability of leasehold obligations and regularly advises on matters relating to lease extensions under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.  George also deals with possession, forfeiture and dilapidations claims.

    Examples of recent cases include:

    Daejan Properties Limited v O’Loughlin (2018) (Willesden County Court) – Claim for possession against Rent Act tenant. Issues concerning who the tenant was for the purposes of the Act and whether the property had been vacated owing to illness. Settled at mediation.

    The London Borough of Wandsworth v Loayza (2019) (Central London County Court): represented defendant in claim for possession by Council.  The defendant successfully established a right to succeed the deceased tenant (his former partner) under the relevant provisions of the Housing Act 1985.  Represented the defendant on a conditional fee agreement.

  • Professional Negligence

    George acts for both claimants and insurers in professional negligence claims.  Most of his work in this area concerns  (alleged) negligence by solicitors and property professionals, such as surveyors, architects and building contractors.  Examples of more recent cases include:

    Atlas Cleaning Limited v A firm of solicitors (2018) (High Court, ChD) – professional negligence claim concerning the sale of companies. Settled the week before trial. Led by Russell Stone.

    Ford v (1) Haynes (2) Sussex Surveyors (2018) (Brighton County Court) – claim against vendor and surveyor in respect of flooding to residential premises.

    Hills & 11 others v A firm of solicitors (ongoing) – substantial professional negligence case against a well-known national firm of solicitors, currently in pre-action stage. The proposed claim concerns an  onerous, compounding ground rent clause in respect of which the leaseholders say they were not properly advised by the proposed defendant firm of solicitors and which renders the value of their long lease as nil.

    Thompson v (1) British Gas (2) SIG Energy (2020) – acting for claimants in a claim concerning residential property ruined by the installation of government-incentivised cavity wall insulation.  Settled the week before trial.

  • Real Property

    George has particular expertise in trusts of land and family-owned property/cohabitation disputes but also regularly deals with cases concerning proprietary estoppel; nuisance; restrictive covenants; boundary disputes; easements and rights of way; claims arising out of the sale of land; property-related professional negligence; and mortgages (including fraud and undue influence).  Recent cases include:

    Keenan v Singer (2020) (Luton County Court): 4-day boundary dispute trial which settled after evidence.  The trial included a site visit, and live and remote (Skype) oral evidence.  Issues including pre and post-2002 Act adverse possession, proprietary estoppel and the admissibility of expert evidence.

    Collington v Uppal (2020) (Luton County Court): issued boundary dispute claim concerning issues of trespass and development of site.

    Caiger v (1) Hertfordshire County Council (2) Hamilton (2020) (Hertford County Court): dispute primarily concerning (interference with) a right of way to land and also nuisance, trespass and harassment.  Settled at remote (Zoom) mediation.

    Harvey v Whybrow (2019) (First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)): Multi-day hearing of application to register right of way (prescription) over unregistered land.

    Ralph v Ralph (2019) (Central London County Court) (2019) – recently granted permission to appeal to the High Court following trial concerning property purchased by son and father as tenants in common.  Issues on appeal concern, amongst other things, the law of mistake, the rescission of express trusts contained within TR1 forms, and the extent to which courts can go behind such trusts in the absence of a pleaded case.

     

  • Trusts, Probate & Estates

    A substantial part of George’s practice falls within this practice area.  In particular, George has dealt with a vast number of trusts of land/cohabitation disputes, as well as Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claims, applications to remove/replace/appoint executors/trustees, proprietary estoppel and contested will cases (including all of the common challenges to a will’s validity).

    George is increasingly involved in cases in which capacity is an issue and handles such matters with care, sensitivity and experience.  Some of George’s recent cases include:

    Aberdour v Cubbin (ChD) (2020) – Part 8 hearing to determine claim to remove Defendants as executors pursuant to s.50 of the AJA 1985.  Agreement reached mid-way through the hearing for all parties to be removed and replaced by a professional executor.

    Green v Slater (2020) (Central London County Court): claim following breakdown of unmarried couple’s relationship and including issues of interpretation of a Deed of Trust, the purpose of the trust, and the timing and mechanics of an order for sale of jointly-owned residential property.

    Chiemelu v Egemonye & Ors (ongoing) (ChD): spousal claim under the 1975 Act for further provision from estate.

    Smith v (1) Cardwell (2) Bertie-Smith (Lincoln County Court) (2020) – acted for the successful Claimant at multi-day trial seeking an account and judgment for over £100,000 purportedly misappropriated in breach of trust by trustees (the Claimant’s long-term partner and daughter-in-law) under a personal injury settlement trust.

    Amaral v Almeida (Bournemouth County Court) (2020) – successfully represented the Claimant in a trial concerning the parties’ former home.  Issues including ToLATA provisions, division of proceeds, equitable accounting and occupation.

    McGregor v (1) Hindley (2) Hindley (3) Simpson: 1975 Act cohabitant and proprietary estoppel claim to estate of late partner (ongoing) (ChD).

    Georgiou v Rowles & 4 others (High Court, Bristol District Registry) (2020) – acted for two Defendants at final hearing of a dispute over the distribution and value of various chattels from the estate of the parties’ mother.

    Ralph v Ralph (Central London County Court) (2019) – recently granted permission to appeal to the High Court following trial concerning property purchased by son and father as tenants in common.  Issues on appeal concern, amongst other things, the law of mistake, the rescission of express trusts contained within TR1 forms, and the extent to which courts can go behind such trusts in the absence of a pleaded case.

    Egemonye & Ors v Chiemelu (High Court, ChD) (2019) – successful section 50 application to remove executor.

    (1) Udoinam (2) Udoinam v (3) Udoinam (High Court, ChD) – successful section 50 application to remove executor.

    Tuck v Clarke (Central London County Court, Chancery List) assigned to HHJ Johns QC (2019 – at CCMC stage) – complicated possession claim for property in which 75-year old defendant has lived in for over 60 years, believing the property to be owned by her and having spent over £400,000 renovating and improving the property. Issues concerning: common intention constructive trusts, resulting trusts, quantum meruit, abandonment of interest, implied severance and adverse possession post-2002 Act. The case is likely to attract both public and legal press attention.

    Lazell v Glessing (June, 2019) Central London County Court, Chancery List, HHJ Roberts) – represented the Defendant at the trial of his long-term ex-partner’s claim to a sale of three adjoining plots owned by the parties. The Claimant sought an order for the sale of the Property as a whole so as to take advantage of a £50,000 marriage value. Issues concerning the correct application of ss.14 and 15 of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and Bagum v Hafiz and Hai [2015] EWCA Civ 801. Further issues concerning occupation rent and costs (the Defendant recovered his costs of the trial, with no order on the balance).

    Folarin v Folarin (2019) (Central London County Court, Chancery List) – case concerning claim for a declaration as to beneficial interest, order for sale, account and inquiry in respect of a joint venture started between two brothers in 1995. The assets of the Joint Venture are now estimated to be worth between £2 million and £3 million and include residential property, securities, motor cars and cash. Issues including: Pallant v Morgan equity; partnership and joint venture; express trusts; constructive and resulting trusts; promissory notes; and accounting (over 20 years’ worth) with likely forensic accounting evidence. 

    Suckling v Suckling [2019] (High Court, ChD) WLUK 333 – successfully represented C in a Part 8 claim seeking the removal of his sister as an executor de son tort.  Successfully achieved an order in committal proceedings which led to the defendant’s compliance.

    Burgess v Baynton (2018) (Hertfordshire County Court) – advised and represented the Claimant in a Part 8 claim for a declaration of beneficial interest and order for sale of former family home in Hertfordshire. Hard fought litigation which, after an unsuccessful application by the Defendant to adjourn the trial date, led to the Defendant accepting a Part 36 offer 2 days before trial. Successful pre-trial application for an order for sale.

    Squirrel v Arron (2018) (Central London County Court) – ToLATA dispute concerning residential property with attached business with issues including rectification of share register. Settled at mediation.

    Patel v Patel & ors (2018) (Central London County Court) – successful ToLATA claim concerning property lived in by large family over past 30 years. Issues concerning bilateral mistake and common intention constructive trusts.

    Whittaker v Whittaker (2018) (High Court, ChD) – represented one of two brothers bringing a proprietary estoppel claim against mother’s estate relying on assurances given over 20 years prior. Claim settled favourably at mediation. 

    Platt v Bryden (2017) (Brighton County Court) – successfully defended a ToLATA claim to beneficial interest in 4 properties owned by the defendant: claim struck out. The claim concerned a long and unusual relationship between the parties. 

    Harrington v Euesden (2017) (Chelmsford County Court) – ToLATA/proprietary estoppel claim successfully setting aside express declaration of trust.

  • Notable Cases

    UK Learning Academy Ltd v Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWCA Civ 370. Led by Clifford Darton QC.

    Suckling v Suckling [2019] (High Court, ChD) WLUK 333 – successfully represented C in a Part 8 claim seeking the removal of his sister as an executor de son tort.  Successfully achieved an order in committal proceedings which led to the defendant’s compliance.

    Lazell v Glessing (June, 2019) (Central London County Court, Chancery List) – represented the Defendant at the trial of his long-term ex-partner’s claim to a sale of three adjoining plots owned by the parties.  Widespread press attention.

    Aberdour v Cubbin (2020) (High Court, Property, Trusts and Probate List) – Part 8 hearing to determine claim to remove Defendants as executors pursuant to s.50 of the AJA 1985.  Agreement reached mid-way through the hearing for all parties to be removed and replaced by a professional executor.  Widespread press attention.

    Martin v Posener [2017] EWHC 2320: dispute concerning the provision of funding for research into potential claims for compensation from German organisations in relation to the confiscation of assets belonging to German Jews by the Nazi regime. Led by Clifford Darton QC.

    Cavanagh v Witley Parish Council [2017] 2 WLUK 371

    Hackney LBC v Smith & Ors [2012] EWHC 4531 (Ch)

    Eastenders Cash & Carry plc and another company v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2010] All ER (D) 52 (Nov): concerning the power of detention contained in the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, s. 139(1).

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