Understanding Equitable Estoppel in California
Southern California trial attorneys provide representation to individuals and businesses involved in disputes. Some of these disputes are resolved outside of court through the negotiation of a settlement. Others are resolved in litigation and a judge or jury makes a decision based on the evidence presented and the law applied to that evidence.
One rule of evidence that could be important in trial court proceedings is a rule found in California Evidence Code section 623. This section of the evidence code enshrines in California law a legal doctrine that is called equitable estoppel.
It is one of many legal doctrines that could be important to your case and that an experienced attorney can explain to you. To find out about equitable estoppel or about any other rules of evidence that could have an impact on the outcome of your legal proceedings, contact Brown & Charbonneau, LLP today.
What is Equitable Estoppel?
The legal definition of equitable estoppel, as found in Evidence Code section 623 states: “When a party has, by his own statement or conduct, intentionally and deliberately led another to believe a particular thing true and to act upon such belief, he is not, in any litigation arising out of such statement or conduct, permitted to contradict it.”
What does this mean in practice? In practice, the doctrine of equitable estoppel prevents a party who is involved in a legal dispute from either making a legal claim or asserting a defense which is contrary to, or inconsistent with, prior statements or conduct.
If one of the parties, by his conduct or by his words, made promises or assurances which the other party involved in the dispute relied upon in a way that impacted the legal relationship between the parties, the party who made the assurances can’t just act as if the promises or assurances were never made.
The same is true if the statements or assurances induced the other party to take action in reliance upon those assurances.
Why Does Equitable Estoppel Exist as a Legal Doctrine?
Equitable estoppel is intended to prevent unfair outcomes. If you rely on assertions or promises made by someone who you should be able to trust, it would be an unfair outcome if the person or company upon which you relied could act as if those assertions or promises were never made.
Equitable estoppel does not apply in all situations where someone has made a promise or made a statement. There are legal requirements that must be met in order for you to claim equitable estoppel to prevent someone from contradicting past statements or rescinding past promises.
For example, if you try to estop someone (prevent them from going back on prior statements), the person who is being estopped must have known the actual facts and known that you would act upon or believe the promises or assertions that were made. You also must not have known the actual true facts and must have relied, to you detriment, upon the statements or assertions made by the person who you are trying to estop.
If you wish to establish an equitable estoppel, you are going to need to be the one to prove that all of these things are true. It can sometimes be a challenge to demonstrate that the party who you are seeking to estop actually knew you would rely upon the statements that were made. It could also be a challenge to demonstrate both that you did not know the true facts and that the party who you are seeking to estop did know the true facts. You should work with an experienced attorney who can help you to obtain necessary evidence and make the strongest possible case.
Getting Help from Irvine Trial Attorneys
Equitable estoppel is just one of many legal doctrines that exists to try to ensure that individuals and businesses deal with each other in fair ways. Doctrines like this one can provide important protections for your legal rights, but you must know that this type of legal protection exists in order for it to benefit you or your company.
Because the rules applicable to governing relationships between people and companies can be so complex, it is best to ensure you are represented by Irvine trial attorneys as soon as a problem arises.
An experienced attorney at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help you to explore all of the legal rules and doctrines that could protect your interest whenever a dispute or a disagreement occurs. Give us a call at 866-237-8129 or contact us online to find out more about how our legal team can help you.