O'Sullivan & Hilliard's The Law of Contract (2018 8 ed). p. 115.

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’)

Ewan McKendrick. Contract Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (2018 8 ed). p 217.


Professor Treitel has stated (Some Landmarks of Twentieth Century Contract Law (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 29) that ‘the High Trees case is surely one of the most prominent of the landmarks in twentieth century contract law’. He notes that its exalted status is, in many

p 218.

ways, remarkable given that it was apparently argued and decided in one day. The judgment of Denning J was therefore, in all probability, an unreserved judgment. As Professor Treitel has remarked, ‘if there was any time for reflection, it could at most have been the luncheon recess’. The facts of the case are rather unusual in that the litigation was conducted between members of the same corporate group and it is not altogether clear why the claim was brought in the first place. The claim may not in fact have been a ‘friendly’ one but a keenly fought contest between the defendant and the creditors of the plaintiff company.

(remarkably) implies that the author of the above quote was startled. So which definition fits? I quote ODO's definitions of 'unreserved'.

  1. Without reservations; complete
  2. Frank and open
  3. Not set apart for a particular purpose or booked in advance
  • 1
    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
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 6:57

1 Answer 1


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.

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