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Last week, the press was full of news on Prince Harry. One of the more unusual stories included a court case in India. On 8th April 2021, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh, issued a decision in the case of Palwinder Kaur v Prince Harry Middleton and others CRWP-3347-2021.
In this case, Ms Kaur, a lawyer in India, raised an action against Prince Harry to enforce an agreement of marriage and for an international arrest warrant to allow the marriage to progress without delay. Ms Kaur claims that she had been messaging Prince Harry through social media. During the online chats, in which she believed she and ‘Prince Harry’ had formed a relationship, the individual purporting to be Prince Harry advised that he wanted to marry Ms Kaur. Ms Kaur accepted this proposal and was of the view that a contract had been created by offer and acceptance. When arrangements for the marriage did not proceed, Ms Kaur wrote to Prince Harry’s father and following no response raised the Court action.
Dismissing the action, the Court held that the action was “a day-dreamer’s fantasy” and that authenticity of online conversations cannot be relied upon in Court. Accepting that it was highly unlikely to be the Prince Harry and more likely a catfish, the Court held that Prince Harry would not be arrested and would be able to remain married to Meghan Markle!
What would happen if such a court action was raised in Scotland?
In Scotland, contracts can be formed verbally or in writing, for example through an email chain. In order for a contract to be binding, there must be an agreement on essential terms, an intention to create legal relations and certainty of the terms.
The essential terms to the contract can vary depending on the nature, but in short, the usual terms are parties, price and subject matter. Without an agreement being made on each these terms, there is unlikely to be a binding contract.
And what if Ms Kaur agreed to marry someone she thought was Prince Harry but turned out he was someone else? Would she be bound by this?
If Ms Kaur entered a contract to marry thinking she was marrying Prince Harry, and it turned out to be another individual, it is likely that implementation of the contract could be avoided on the basis of misrepresentation. Misrepresentation is where one party enters into a contract where the other party has misrepresented a fact which was material for the parties entering into the contract. Misrepresentation can be innocent, negligent or fraudulent. A statement honestly made, but wrong, could be negligent or innocent misrepresentation. In order for a claim of fraudulent misrepresentation to be successful, the Pursuer must show that the statement was both false and fraudulent.
In the case of Ms Kaur, the misrepresentation suffered is of a fraudulent nature. The simplest form of fraud is a straight lie, and in this situation, the individual purporting to be Prince Harry made a false statement about their identity in order to mislead Ms Kaur. Ms Kaur, if successful in any misrepresentation claim against the individual falsifying his identity, could be entitled to reduction of the contract and/or a payment for any losses incurred, which may include an element of personal suffering.
For information and help on any contractual issues please speak to a member of the Blackadders Dispute Resolution Team working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, and across Scotland.
Susan Currie, Senior Solicitor
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