Whitland farmer's daughter sues parents for share in £7m estate
3:00pm Monday 10th March 2014 in News
A FARMER'S daughter who claims she had to stay at home and tend the cows while her teenage siblings went dancing is suing her parents for a share of their £7million estate.
Eirian Davies, 45, insists she was repeatedly assured by her parents, Tegwyn and Mary Davies, that she would ultimately step into their shoes and take over the family's 'golden egg' - thriving Caeremlyn Farm, near Whitlan.
She says a substantial stake in the 200-acre farm is no more than her due for the years of toil she put in, but her parents are fighting her and the case is now at the Court of Appeal.
Miss Davies told an earlier court hearing that she missed out on going to Young Farmers' Club dances as a teenager because she had to stay at home to deal with her farming chores.
She said her parents told her that her sisters were not interested in the farm and that her patience would one day be rewarded.
"They always told me that the farm would be left to me. Even on my birthday, when the other girls were having things, they would say - 'you will have the damn lot one day, it will all be yours'," she told Judge Milwyn Jarman QC.
The judge found that Miss Davies had "established an entitlement to a beneficial interest in the farm or farming business" - but her parents are challenging that ruling before three of the country's most senior judges.
Timothy Fancourt QC, representing Mr Davies, 75, and his 76-year-old wife, argued their daughter had earned a fair income during her stints working on the farm and was provided with 'bed and board'.
Her parents also put their daughter through agricultural college, said the QC, adding: 'She said in terms that agriculture was her love and she wanted to be on the farm'.
Insisting that she had suffered no 'substantial detriment' in reliance on anything her parents had said or done, he told the court there was no evidence that 'she would have been better off' had she not worked on the farm.
However, Leslie Blohm QC, for Miss Davies, said promises were made by her parents from 1985, when she was 17, and she had worked "extremely long hours" - at times underpaid, and sometimes for nothing.
If she complained to her parents about meagre wages, she was told that the farm would ultimately belong to her - and 'not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg', added the barrister.
Although Judge Jarman found that Miss Davies had 'walked away from the farm' for periods betwen 1989 and 2008, living and working elsewhere, she had eventually moved back home following a reconciliation with her parents.
Mr Blohm said the rapprochement also followed a 'representation' by her father that she could live on the estate, in Henllan Farmhouse, rent-free for life, and that she was to be a partner in the farming business.
In 2009, a pledge that she would inherit the farm was also made in a draft will, the barrister added.
However, following a final family "rupture" in late 2012, her parents gave her notice to quit the farmhouse. But Miss Davies insisted she was entitled to a beneficial interest in the farm.
In his ruling last year, Judge Jarman said that, after periods away, Miss Davies had always returned home - "relying on the representations by continuing to work and live on the farm".
And Mr Blohm told the court: "It is plain from the evidence that a talented, hard-working and capable lady has spent a substantial part of her adult life - over a period of 25 years - carrying out difficult physical work for the benefit of her parents.
"That was on the strength of their repeated representations that she would eventually take over the farm and business.
"If not for those representations she would have employed her skills elsewhere."
Lords Justice Richards, Underhill and Floyd reserved their decision on the couple's appeal and will give their ruling at a later date.
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