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Judicial Estoppel

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Like with Equitable Estoppel, Collateral Estoppel — Issue Preclusion, and Res Judicata — Claim Preclusion, judicial estoppel is a device designed to protect judicial integrity and resources.

Generally speaking, judicial estoppel prevents parties from taking a position in one judicial proceeding, thereby obtaining benefits from that position in that instance and later, in a second proceeding, taking a contrary position in order to obtain benefits at that time. State Bd. Of Accountancy v. Integrated Fin. Solutions, L.L.C., 256 S.W.3d 48, 54 (Mo. 2008).

Three (3) factors are considered by a court when determining whether judicial estoppel is appropriate: (1) whether a party’s later position is clearly inconsistent with its earlier position; (2) whether the party has succeeded in persuading a court to accept that party’s earlier position; and (3) whether party seeking to assert an inconsistent position would derive an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the opposing party if not estopped. Zedner v. United States, 547 U.S. 489 (2006); Vinson v. Vinson, 243 S.W.3d 418, 422 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007). When present, these three factors “firmly tip the balance of equities in favor of barring the subsequent action.” New Hampshire v. Maine, 32 U.S. 742, 750-51 (2001). In application, judicial estoppel can completely prevent a party from taking a legal/factual position in a case, or, in some circumstances, be an absolute bar to filing a lawsuit.

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