A grandmother will be booted out her own home after a losing “ruinously expensive” court fight with her youngest daughter.
Jane Habberfield, 82, has been in a dispute with Lucy, 51, since her dad Frank died in 2014.
London’s Appeal Court heard today Jane now finds herself in a “desperately difficult situation” as she’ll be “turned out” her £2.5million country home.
Lucy, who grafted long hours on their family farm for 30 years – including doing 80-hour weeks milking cows when she was heavily pregnant – sued her mum after Jane refused to hand her ownership of the farm following Frank’s death.
The mum, described in court as her dad’s “blue-eyed girl”, said her parents had promised she would be given the farm and last year a judge ordered Jane to pay Lucy over £1.1 million to compensate her for devoting her life to the family holding and the cows.
And Jane lost her appeal against that order today.
Lord Justice Lewison said: “This is a sad tale of a farming family; The Habberfields.
“In order to raise the cash sum to which the judge held Lucy to be entitled, the whole of the farm would have to be sold.
“On the face of it, it seems hard that an 82-year-old woman should leave the house which has been her home for over 40 years.
“On the other side of the scale, Lucy was 51 at the date of trial.
“She wanted to begin farming on her own account before it was too late. Without access to the cash award, she would not be able to do so.
“Lucy’s expectation was not such as would require her mother to leave the farmhouse. But that expectation was predicated on the continuation of a harmonious family relationship; not on the aftermath of a ruinously expensive litigation in which her claim was denied.
“Although Jane is elderly, she might live for many years. In view of the family breakdown it was also highly desirable for there to be a clean break.”
The judge heard tensions had been already building between mum Jane, Lucy and her sister Sarah – who a judge found “all have a temper” – before a scrap between the sisters in a cowshed at 220-acre Woodrow Farm, near Yeovil, Somerset, pushed things to crisis point.
This led to Lucy storming out of the family holding where she had worked since she was a schoolgirl, and subsequently filing a court claim for the farm she said she was promised.
Sarah attended the hearing and backed her elderly mother.
But the High Court last year heard Lucy carried out gruelling physical work for long hours with early starts when she was heavily pregnant or had young babies to care for in the 1980s.
Lucy told the court “she never had a good relationship with her mother”.
But she was their late dad Frank’s “favourite” and “blue-eyed girl” because of their shared passion for dairy farming, the court was told.