Luke Rostill is Associate Professor of Property Law in the Oxford Law Faculty and a Tutorial Fellow in Law at Trinity College. Before taking up his current role, Luke was a Supernumerary Teaching Fellow in Law at St John's College, Oxford.

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 AHRC, focused on the law of property and was supervised by Professor Ben McFarlane. 

Luke’s research is concerned with the law of property and property theory. At present, Luke’s research focuses primarily on: (1) the nature of (so-called) “possessory title” in the common law; (2) the nature and grounds of ownership in English Law; (3) the limits of property rights and conflicts between property rights and the rights, interests, and needs of others; and (4) the interaction of property law and other areas of law, including Human Rights Law, the Law of Torts, and Unjust Enrichment. 

Luke is currently working on a monograph (under contract with OUP) on possession, relative title and ownership.

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. 


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  • 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.

Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

Law of Property (land and chattels); Property theory, particularly philosophical issues concerning property; Law of Trusts; Housing Law

Relationships between property law and other areas of law, particularly Equality Law, Human Rights Law, Torts, and Unjust Enrichment 

Options taught

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

Research projects