Updated November 3, 2020:

Equitable Relief Meaning: Equitable relief generally doesn't involve money. Instead, it's a ruling whereby a court orders one party to refrain from participating in one activity and orders them to perform a new action for the sake of the other party. Two examples of equitable relief are injunctions and restraining orders.

What Is Equitable Relief?

Equitable relief arises when monetary relief is inadequate and there is no other legal recourse, both parties must come to a general understanding. Since the word "equity" means "fairness," the aim of equitable relief is to determine a fair solution for both parties.

Most people know about compensatory relief because these types of civil cases are commonly discussed. In a compensatory relief case, one party usually sues another in the hopes of being awarded a monetary prize.

In lieu of having one party pay the other monetary damages in an equitable relief case, one party is ordered to do something or to stop one type of activity.

How Many Types of Equitable Relief Are There?

There are a few types of equitable relief, including:

  • Specific Performance
  • Injunction
  • Declaratory Relief
  • Equitable Estoppel
  • Rescission
  • Reformation

In general, law practitioners are referring to cases involving specific performance and injunctions.

What Is Specific Performance?

Specific performance means that a person is required to complete a certain action, based on what is stated in a contract between the plaintiff and defendant. These forms of relief are usually rejected by courts if personal service contracts are at issue.

Specific performance is applied in cases that meet two criteria. First, a monetary reward would be inadequate. Secondly, one aspect of the contract must present a unique circumstance.

What Is an Injunction?

An injunction forces one party to perform an act or to refrain from doing something. Injunctions may be enforced over a specific period of time or be perpetually enforced. If the person affected by the injunction fails to comply, they may have to pay fines or serve time in jail.

What Is Declaratory Relief?

When declaratory relief is invoked, both sides in a civil court proceeding asked the court to make a specific ruling. In such a case, the court is to outline the type of rights and responsibilities each party has with respect to one another.

Declaratory relief is best applied in cases that involve land rights. Specifically, two parties might be fighting over one piece of property. Thus, a court ruling will determine who has a right to use the land.

What Is Equitable Estoppel?

Equitable Estoppel is invoked when the person making a claim is found to have acted in bad faith or tries to tie up the case. According to the "clean hands" principle (or the "unclean hands" doctrine, however you look at it), the person who seeks equitable relief will be scrutinized. Then, if the court discovers that the petitioner caused the incident between himself and the defendant, the court will not reward equitable relief in that case.

What Is Rescission?

Most of the time, equitable relief comes into play in cases involving a breach of contract. In those cases, the just will order for the rescission of the contract. That means the court has voided the contract.

Rescission will be granted under these circumstances:

  • Fraud was committed.
  • A mistake was made in the drafting or signing of the document.
  • The person who signed the contract did so under duress.
  • The contract makers failed to make considerations for the signee.

When the court rescinds a contract, everything (all goods, property, and money) that was transferred during the duration of the contract will be returned to their original owners. Basically, everyone starts over, with respect to the contract; it's as if the contract was never signed in the first place.

What Is Reformation?

Finally, reformation, which is related to rescission, allows the contract in question to be rewritten to reflect the wishes of both parties. Reformation usually comes into play when there was fraud or both parties made a mistake with the contract. In those cases, the court will compel both parties to abide by the terms of the contract as it was originally drafted if the court finds that both parties breached that contract.

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