Source: p 120, The Law of Contract, 5 ed (2012), by O’Sullivan and Hilliard

6.72. High Trees is in many ways a weak precedent. The case is so influential and well known that students often forget that it was a first instance decision, which was '(remarkably)' delivered unreserved, and that all the discussion about the binding nature of the promise to reduce the rent during the war years was strictly obiter (described by Arden LJ in Collier v P&MJ Wright (Holdings) Ltd (2007) as Denning J’s ‘brilliant obiter dictum’)

(Similar use in para 1, line 5, p 218, Contract Law, By Ewan McKendrick)

1. Without reservations; complete: 2. Frank and open: 3. Not set apart for a particular purpose or booked in advance:

'(remarkably)' implies that the author of the above quote was surprised, so does the quote above mean definition 1, that Denning's decision was shockingly complete? But how does it make sense for judgments to be lacking, unless this is what the author implicitly alleges?

Or definition 2? But then the author would imply that at least some other judgement is disingenuous?

Or defnition 3? But how is this judgement 'not ... for a particular purpose'?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this use of "unreserved" is very detailed legal jargon. A judge or law professor in the appropriate jurisdiction would know the answer; very few non-lawyers (even with access to a comprehensive dictionary) would be able to determine the answer. – Jasper Feb 12 '15 at 6:57

Unreserved here is legal jargon, meaning that the judge did not "reserve judgment": put the case on hold for a while while he researched legal precedent and determined how a complex issue should be resolved.

The judge's discussion was "obiter"—that is, it was stated "by the way" as a matter of his own opinion, not a part of the judgment itself, and hence not to be received as a precedent.


I think that looking closer at "without reservations" in the first definition might be helpful. You could also describe unreserved as "not cautious or reticent". When the decision was delivered, the bench didn't anticipate all of the implications of the decision, so the decision stated what ever it stated without much explanation or caveat. It was only the later obiter that addressed the finer points of the decision and made it a valuable precedent.

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