27/10/2011 12:24 BST | Updated 27/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Charles Dickens Defence: Judge Turns To Novelist To Settle Legal Dispute

An appeal court judge trying to resolve a legal dispute over a property lease has revealed he turned to novelist Charles Dickens for help.

Lord Justice Rimer said one problem he faced was the "potentially flexible" meaning of the word "adjoining".

He said he found a solution in Dickens's 1853 novel Bleak House.

The judge said Dickens's description of an inquest in chapter 33 illustrated that a user of the word "adjoining" may not be using the word as "meaning touching".

Lord Justice Rimer, in a written judgment published on Thursday following a Court of Appeal hearing in London, said: "Chapter 32 of Bleak House concludes with the description of Krook's demise in his rag and bottle warehouse by the phenomenon of spontaneous combustion.

"Chapter 33 describes the inquest, held at the Sol's Arms, 'a well-conducted tavern, immediately adjoining the premises in question (the warehouse), on the west side, and licensed to a respectable landlord, Mr James George Bogsby'."

He added: "(Dickens's) words neatly illustrate the point that a user of the word 'adjoining' may not necessarily be using it as meaning 'touching'."

Lord Justice Rimer - and two other judges - heard evidence about a dispute between Caroline Lovat, of Radlett, Hertfordshire, and a local council.

They were asked to decide whether Mrs Lovat, who owned a leasehold house in Radlett, was entitled to acquire the freehold from her landlord, Hertsmere Borough Council. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the council and said Mrs Lovat was "not entitled to acquire the freehold".

Hertsmere had appealed against a ruling by a judge sitting in Central London County Court and Lord Justice Rimer said the case raised "linked questions of construction arising under section 1AA(3) of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967".