Farmer's widow forced out of £2.5m farm after losing legal fight

The Somerset farm is just outside the village of Yeovil Marsh (Photo: Google Maps)
The Somerset farm is just outside the village of Yeovil Marsh (Photo: Google Maps)

There has been a 'huge increase' in litigation surrounding family farming businesses in recent years, with the most recent example involving an 82-year-old mother and her daughter.

It was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in London on May 23 2019 that a broken promise to her child means Jane Habberfield, 82, is going to be forced to sell her home of 40 years.

The case in question arose in relation to Woodrow Farm, a farming business that had been run by Frank and Jane Habberfield for around 40 years.

Frank died in 2014 and left his entire estate to his wife. The property was jointly owned and would have passed to Jane regardless.



The farming business ended when Frank died and the youngest child, Lucy, brought a claim on the basis that she had been promised the farm by her parents.

It was her position that she was to receive the farm once her parents retired in return for working 7 days a week for 30 years, in return for low wages.



Her mother denied that there had been any promise of this nature.

The High Court accepted Lucy’s position in February 2018 and awarded her £1.17 million.

Rachael Williams, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said this case is a notable example of litigation surrounding family farming businesses in recent times.

“In order to raise enough capital to pay this sum, Jane would have to sell her home.

“She therefore appealed the judgment on the basis it was unfair and that Lucy had turned down an offer made by her parents in 2008.

“The Court of Appeal rejected the arguments advanced and upheld the original order.”

She added: “This result shows that in cases like this, where someone has relied on a promise and invested so much time into a business for little financial gain, the courts are not prepared to allow that promise to be broken, even by death.”