Commonwealth v Verwayen (LAWS2381)

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Citation: Commonwealth v Verwayen (1990) 170 CLR 394.

This information can be found in the Textbook: Edgeworth et all, Sackville and Neave's Property Law Cases and Materials, 8th edition, Lexis Nexis, 2008, pp. 392-401 [4.132].


Background facts

  • Verwayn was a soldier, claimed damages from the Commonwealth for negligence.
  • Commonwealth made representations that a policy has been made not to try defend those claims in court.
  • In reliance on those assumptions, Verwayn continued with his claim in reliance on those representations.
  • Commonwealth changed its policy, tried to defend itself in court


  • Commonwealth irrevocably waived its right to plead defence
  • Or alternatively, the Commonwealth should be estopped from going back on its promise not to defend.

Legal issues


  • Traditionally, the remedies of estoppel were aimed at making good of the representation ('estopping' the party from departing from the promise).
  • However, equitable estoppel is aimed simply at avoiding the detriment, in whatever way.
  • In accordance with other principles of equity, the court should apply the minimum remedy necessary to rectify the detriment (ie,specific performance is not always the solution).
  • The government had created an assumption, upon which Verwayen brought his case. In tis case, the appropriate remedy is to estopp them from acting contrary to the assumptions they encouraged.


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