Biography

Luke Rostill is an Associate Professor of Property Law in the Oxford Law Faculty and a Fellow and Tutor in Law at Trinity College. 

Background

Luke went to a comprehensive school in Swindon before reading Jurisprudence (Law) at Wadham College, Oxford. He obtained his BA, winning the Wronker Prize for best overall performance in law finals, and remained at Wadham for the BCL, MPhil, and DPhil. His DPhil, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, focused on the law of property and was supervised by Professor Ben McFarlane. Before taking up his current role, Luke was a Supernumerary Teaching Fellow in Law at St John's College, Oxford. 

Research

Luke’s research interests are mainly in private law, with a particular focus on property rights. Much of his work is doctrinal, but he also has an interest in theoretical and philosophical questions relating to property law and private law more generally. In recent years, Luke’s work has focused primarily on: (1) the nature of (so-called) “possessory title” in the common law; (2) the nature and grounds of ownership in  the law; (3) the limits of property rights and conflicts between property rights and the rights, interests, and needs of others; and (4) the legal remedies that may be awarded where property rights are infringed. He is interested in the interaction between property law and other areas of law, incuding human rights law, the law of torts, and unjust enrichment. 

Luke's first monograph, Possession, Relative Title, and Ownership in English Law, was published by Oxford University Press in February 2021. 

Teaching

Luke's teaching interests largely mirror his research interests. He teaches Land Law, Personal Property, and Trusts, as well as the BCL/MJur Advanced Property and Trusts course. He has also taught the Law of Torts and Roman Law. 

Postgraduate Supervision

Luke is currently supervising several postgraduate research students working in the fields of property law, trusts law, and property theory, and he is happy to talk to prospective research students about the possibility of acting as a supervisor in these areas.

Publications

Selected publications

  • L Rostill and C Mitchell, 'Making Sense of Mesne Profits: Causes of Action' (2021) 80 Cambridge Law Journal 130
    The article examines a series of cases spanning a 250-year period in which the courts have awarded ‘mesne profits’ against defendants who have occupied claimants’ land. The article argues (1) that various causes of action are disclosed by the facts of cases in which such awards have been made, (2) that these causes of action have changed as the law of obligations has evolved, (3) that modern courts often do not consider what causes of action are disclosed by the facts of ‘mesne profits cases’, (4) that this is unfortunate because practical consequences can flow from categorising the cases in one way or another and (5) that the resolution of future ‘mesne profits cases’ will become more just and more transparent when it is understood that their facts may variously disclose causes of action in tort, contract or unjust enrichment.
  • L Rostill, 'Possession and Damages for Tortious Interferences with Chattels ' (2021) 41 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 459
    The common law has long maintained that, where a defendant has tortiously interfered with a chattel that was in the claimant’s possession at the time of the wrong, the claimant is, in general, to be presumed to be the ‘absolute and complete owner’ of the chattel. It is argued in this article that the rule lacks a satisfactory justificatory basis: the justification that has been endorsed by the courts is fatally flawed, and the main alternative justifications that have been advanced in the academic literature are also unsatisfactory. If an adequate foundation cannot be found, the rule should be abolished and, if it were to be abolished, there are, it is suggested, good reasons to introduce a similar, but importantly different, rule of presumption.

Journal Article (7)

L Rostill and C Mitchell, 'Making Sense of Mesne Profits: Remedies' (2022) Cambridge Law Journal (forthcoming)
L Rostill and C Mitchell, 'Making Sense of Mesne Profits: Causes of Action' (2021) 80 Cambridge Law Journal 130
The article examines a series of cases spanning a 250-year period in which the courts have awarded ‘mesne profits’ against defendants who have occupied claimants’ land. The article argues (1) that various causes of action are disclosed by the facts of cases in which such awards have been made, (2) that these causes of action have changed as the law of obligations has evolved, (3) that modern courts often do not consider what causes of action are disclosed by the facts of ‘mesne profits cases’, (4) that this is unfortunate because practical consequences can flow from categorising the cases in one way or another and (5) that the resolution of future ‘mesne profits cases’ will become more just and more transparent when it is understood that their facts may variously disclose causes of action in tort, contract or unjust enrichment.
L Rostill, 'Possession and Damages for Tortious Interferences with Chattels ' (2021) 41 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 459
The common law has long maintained that, where a defendant has tortiously interfered with a chattel that was in the claimant’s possession at the time of the wrong, the claimant is, in general, to be presumed to be the ‘absolute and complete owner’ of the chattel. It is argued in this article that the rule lacks a satisfactory justificatory basis: the justification that has been endorsed by the courts is fatally flawed, and the main alternative justifications that have been advanced in the academic literature are also unsatisfactory. If an adequate foundation cannot be found, the rule should be abolished and, if it were to be abolished, there are, it is suggested, good reasons to introduce a similar, but importantly different, rule of presumption.
L Rostill, 'Relative Title and Deemed Ownership in English Personal Property Law' (2015) 35 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 31
This article is concerned with two elementary propositions of English property law: (i) in general, a person acquires a title in respect of a tangible chattel if and when he or she obtains possession of it; and (ii) titles are relative. Neither claim is as straightforward as it seems. Much hinges on the answer to one question: is a title a property right, or is it something else? A number of prominent property law scholars have claimed that, for the purposes of (i) and (ii), a title is indeed a property right. This article claims that there is a plausible alternative, one that is committed to the view that in English law, having possession of a chattel is a condition of the law deeming a person to be its owner. It argues that this assertion is supported by an important line of cases. And it maintains that, if that assertion is kept in mind, one can make better sense of the otherwise obscure view that having possession of a chattel is a condition of a person acquiring a ‘claim’ to the ownership of it and hence a title that is not a property right.
L Rostill, 'The ownership that wasn't meant to be: Yearworth and property rights in human tissue' (2014) 40 Journal of Medical Ethics 14
This paper is concerned with the English Court of Appeal's decision in Yearworth v North Bristol NHS Trust that six men had, for the purposes of their claims against the trust, ownership of the sperm they had produced. The case has been discussed by many commentators and most, if not all, of those who have discussed the case have claimed or assumed that the court held that the claimants had property rights in the sperm they had produced. In this paper, I advance an interpretation of the case that does not regard the court as deciding that the men had property rights (in the narrow sense of that term) in the sperm they had produced. On this view, the ‘ownership’ that the Court of Appeal purported to vest in each of the men was not a right in rem, a right ‘binding the world’. If this is so, it is perhaps unsurprising that some scholars, evaluating the success of the court's reasoning as a justification for vesting the claimants with property rights, have found it to be unsatisfactory.

Book (1)

Review (2)

L Rostill, 'Review of Effects of Mistake and Other Defects on the Passage of Legal Title' (2021) Conveyancer and Property Lawyer 308 [Review]
L Rostill, 'The Ownership of Goods and Chattels' [2021] Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly 207 [Review]

Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

Private law, particularly the law of property (land and chattels); private law theory, particularly philosophical issues concerning property; law of trusts; housing law.

Relationships between property law and other areas of law, particularly human rights law, law of torts, and unjust enrichment. 

Options taught

Land Law, Trusts, Personal Property, Advanced Property and Trusts, A Roman Introduction to Private Law

Research projects