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The Origins of the Mistake of Law Bar in English Law


Duncan Sheehan


University of East Anglia

March 19, 2008

University of East Anglia Norwich Law School Working Paper No. NLSWP 08/01

Abstract:     
This paper examines the origins of the mistake of law bar in English law. It notes that it came about as a result of confusion, evident initially in Bilbie v Lumley and developed later between different concepts of voluntary payments and the idea of inexcusable mistake. There were other pressures - philosophers such as Austin thought the bar essential for the administration of justice. Influential commentary writers, such as Joseph Story believed it essential, and this won over judges such as Lord Brougham, who solidified the bar in Scots law. By the 1840s the view was that mistake of law barred recovery and the removal of the excusability requirement in mistake of fact cases could not alter that.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 24

Keywords: Mistake of Law, Restitution, Legal History

JEL Classification: K19

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Date posted: March 28, 2008 ; Last revised: April 9, 2009

Suggested Citation

Sheehan, Duncan, The Origins of the Mistake of Law Bar in English Law (March 19, 2008). University of East Anglia Norwich Law School Working Paper No. NLSWP 08/01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1113723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1113723

Contact Information

Duncan Sheehan (Contact Author)
University of East Anglia ( email )
Norwich NR4 7TJ, Norfolk
United Kingdom
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