Journal Articles

Pre-existing Legal Relationships in Promissory Estoppel Ought Not to Be Understood So Restrictively – By: Dr. Krish Maharaj




The requirements to raise a promissory estoppel are variously expressed, but a common element to all formulations is the need for a “pre-existing legal relationship” between the parties to the estoppel. What constitutes a “pre-existing legal relationship” is not well-defined, however, and within the scholarship and jurisprudence on promissory estoppel some views on the topic are more restrictive than others. This article identifies questions raised by two of these restrictive interpretations, the first of which is advanced by the Supreme Court of Canada in Trial Lawyers Association of BC v Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, and the second by K R Handley, a former Justice of the New South Wales Court of Appeal, in his extrajudicial scholarship on the topic. Highlighting these questions is intended to call attention to the respective shortcomings of these restrictive approaches, and to establish the groundwork for a new framework for understanding legal relationships in the context of promissory estoppel, which I will propose in a future article.

Author Biography

Dr. Krish Maharaj is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University. He earned his LLB/BCOM at the University of Auckland and his LLM and PhD from The University of British Columbia (UBC). Specializing in the law of obligations and private law relationships, he has a particular emphasis on contracts, equity and trusts, and damages. Admitted to the bar in New Zealand, British Columbia, and Alberta, Dr. Maharaj’s approach to teaching and research is informed by his time in practice. Previously a faculty member at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law, he was a founding member of both the Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and Law and the editorial board of the Desautels Review. His work on contracts and promissory estoppel has garnered significant recognition within academia and from the bench and bar.


Krish Maharaj, “Pre-Existing Legal Relationships in Promissory Estoppel Ought Not to Be Understood So Restrictively” (2023) 1:1 TRU L Rev 9.

This Article is also available through CanLII.