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Co-operative Insurance v Argyll Stores

Co-operative Insurance Society Ltd v Argyll Stores (Holdings) Ltd [1997] 2 WLR 898

Contract law – Specific performance – Covenants


The plaintiffs granted a lease to the defendant for the use of a unit in a shopping centre for the period of thirty-five years. A clause in the lease required a covenant to keep the premises open for trade during regular business hours in the local area. The premises were used as a supermarket and happened to be the biggest attraction in the shopping centre. The defendants subsequently reviewed their business and closed 27 of their supermarkets, with this particular supermarket being one of those. The plaintiffs allowed the defendants to remain in the marketplace, offering a concession on the rent but without response, the defendant closed the supermarket accordingly. The plaintiff brought an action seeking specific performance and/or damages. The judge found in favour for damages but rejected specific performance. The plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Appeal ordered specific performance. The defendants appealed.


The issue for the court was whether the clause in the contract was specific enough to enable the plaintiff to enforce specific performance of the contract by the defendant. Specifically, it was important for the court to consider the position of the parties if they found specific performance possible.

Decision / Outcome

The House of Lords allowed the appeal on the basis that the defendant would likely suffer greater loss by being forced to perform the contract than the plaintiff would if the defendant did not carry out the contract as agreed. This would place the plaintiff in an unfair bargaining position. Moreover, the clause in the agreement was not specific enough to be capable of specific performance.

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Answering problem questions in the University of London LLB programme requires a clear understanding of legal principles, good analytical skills and the ability to apply the law to a given set of facts. Here are some tips to help you answer problem questions effectively:

  1. Read the question carefully: Make sure you understand what the question is asking before you begin writing.
  2. Identify the legal issues: Identify the legal issues raised by the facts and the relevant laws that apply to those issues.
  3. Analyze the facts: Analyze the facts presented in the question, focusing on the details that are relevant to the legal issues.
  4. Apply the law: Apply the relevant laws to the facts, making sure to consider all relevant legal principles and cases.
  5. Structure your answer: Use a clear and well-structured approach, starting with an introduction that outlines the main legal issues, followed by a discussion of the relevant laws and a conclusion that summarizes your analysis and sets out your conclusion.
  6. Use relevant cases and statutes: Cite relevant cases and statutes to support your analysis and help illustrate the legal principles you are discussing.
  7. Be concise: Be concise and to the point, focusing on the key issues and avoiding unnecessary detail.
  8. Proofread: Proofread your answer carefully to make sure it is error-free and clear.
  9. Time management: Make sure you manage your time effectively, leaving enough time to review your answer and make any necessary corrections.

By following these tips, you should be able to answer problem questions in the University of London LLB programme effectively and with confidence. Good luck!

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