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Equitable Estoppel

Estoppel is an equitable legal theory that is almost always injected into a lawsuit as a defense, though it is possible to see a plaintiff use it. While the law disfavors estoppel, Stenger v. Great Southern Sav. and Loan Ass’n, 677 S.W.2d 376, 383 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984), it exists to maintain consistency and honesty in judicial proceedings. Estoppel consists of three (3) elements: (1) an admission, statement, or act by the person to be estopped that is inconsistent with the claim that is later asserted and sued upon, 2) an action taken by a second party on the faith of such admission, statement or act, and 3) an injury to the second party which would result if the first party is permitted to contradict or repudiate his admission, statement or act. Pinnell v. Jacobs, 873 S.W.2d 925, 927 (Mo.App.1994). The party asserting estoppel must establish each element by clear evidence. Id. As a further requirement, Courts will not utilize estoppel “unless justice to the rights of others demands it.” Peerless Supply Co. v. Industrial Plumbing & Hearing Co., 460 S.W.2d 651, 666 (Mo. 1970). 

Boiled down, if you make a statement in a judicial proceeding, and another party relies on it, you’re bound to that statement. This prevents people from taking different positions in different cases/contexts. Contact us with questions.