Estoppel by laches is a legal belief that defendants in courts of law sometimes use to deny a person relief when making a claim. It must be proven, however, that the claimant has failed to meet certain conditions when asserting a claim, such as being unreasonably late in filing the claim.

A defendant (or person being sued) who invokes laches must assert that the person making the claim is no longer entitled to such relief through the original claim and proof must be provided as to why the relief should not be granted.

It is pertinent to understand that because this doctrine is an equitable defense, it is available for use only during claims in which a plaintiff is going after equitable relief. Also important to note is that this principle cannot be used in claims that involve any type of monetary damages.

Understanding When Estoppel by Laches can Be Used

This principle can be used during claims involving civil matters. More importantly, it can be used only when it is asserted that some type of unreasonable delay has taken place in regard to pursuing the claim and this delay must have been an act of negligence on the person making the claim. While some people believe that the doctrine is a technical doctrine in the Courts of Equity, it actually is not, nor is it an arbitrary doctrine.

When estoppel by laches is presented to the courts, there are two aspects that are heavily taken into consideration:

  • The length of delay that has taken place
  • Any acts and their nature that have taken place during the period of time in which the delay has occurred

These acts and their nature are carefully reviewed to determine if either party was affected in a negative manner. They are also reviewed to see if any type of justice was carried out, therefore meaning no relief should be sought because a remedy has already been provided.

Why Was the Doctrine of Laches Created?

It has been seen time and time again that even the tiniest of delay in filing a lawsuit can, in many cases, have a negative impact regarding an opposing party's capability to put together a fair defense. During the delay of time in which a claim is not being made, there are many things that can take place, such as losing communication with witnesses, the disappearance of evidence, and witnesses failing to remember events exactly as they occurred due to a natural loss of memory over an extended period of time.

The Doctrine of Laches seeks to remedy these issues by making sure a claimant files a claim within a reasonable amount of time. Because of the Doctrine of Laches, a plaintiff who has knowledge of an issue but fails to make a timely claim will risk being barred from acquiring any type of relief for his her claim. To put it simply, if a person wants to make a claim about an issue, they need to do so in a timely manner to ensure all parties involved have enough time to prepare a proper defense.

Is There a Difference Between the Statute of Limitations and Laches?

Even though many people believe the Statute of Limitations and the Doctrine of Laches to be one in the same, they are actually quite different from each other. A statute of limitations is a set period of time in which a person can bring forth a legal claim. For example, in the state of Arkansas, a person can only bring forth a rape claim if the incident has allegedly occurred within six years of the date the claim was filed with the courts.

The Doctrine of Laches, however, is more concerned with why a claim was made with such a delay. Because of this, a person using the Doctrine of Laches will always be given careful consideration by a judge as to whether there was a reasonable cause for the delay and whether or not the claim should be able to move forward with the courts.

How Can a Person Successfully use the Doctrine of Laches?

A person claiming Doctrine of Laches must prove the delay has impacted him negatively. Take for example that because the claim was delayed, it ended up increasing the potential award of damages; this is a perfect instance in which a person should use the Doctrine of Laches. It is also ideal to use it when witness testimony is no longer available and if the person had made a timely claim, witness testimony would have been easily available.

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