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WPI 302.05 Elements of Equitable Estoppel

6A WAPRAC WPI 302.05Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil

6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 302.05 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part XIII. Contracts
Chapter 302. Contracts—Performance and Breach
WPI 302.05 Elements of Equitable Estoppel
A party is not allowed to make a claim that contradicts or repudiates [his] [her] [its] earlier statement, admission, or conduct on which another has reasonably relied, if the relying party would be injured by such contradiction or repudiation. This is known as “estoppel.”
In order to prove estoppel,(insert party claiming estoppel)has the burden of proving, by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence:
(1) That(insert other party)said or did something on which(insert claiming party)relied;
(2) That(insert claiming party)reasonably relied on(insert other party)'s statement or conduct; and
(3) That(insert claiming party)would be injured if(insert other party)were allowed to contradict that statement or conduct now.
Use this instruction when the jury needs a broad definition of the principle of equitable estoppel. For cases involving equitable estoppel in the specific context of performance issues, use WPI 302.06 (Excuse of Performance—Estoppel) instead of this instruction.
The parties are left undesignated, because the estoppel may be raised by a party seeking enforcement of a contract, i.e., as a defense to a defense, or by a party seeking to avoid enforcement of a contract. When equitable estoppel is asserted as an affirmative defense by a party seeking to avoid enforcement of a contract, combine this instruction with WPI 302.06 (Excuse of Performance—Estoppel).
Use this instruction when the court has determined that the evidence would warrant the application of the principle of equitable estoppel, including a determination that the non-moving party's conduct was sufficiently inconsistent with the claim that the moving party is attempting to defend.
Use this instruction with WPI 160.03 (Fraud—Burden of Proof—Combined with Preponderance of Evidence) to explain the meaning of proof by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.
Regarding the separate issue of promissory estoppel, which may be asserted in response to a claim of lack of consideration, see the Comment to WPI 301A.01 (Promissory Estoppel).
This instruction is based on the elements of equitable estoppel as set forth in Berschauer/Phillips Construction Co. v. Seattle School District No. 1, 124 Wn.2d 816, 831, 881 P.2d 986 (1994):
(1) an admission, statement or act inconsistent with a claim afterward asserted; (2) action by another in reasonable reliance on that act, statement, or admission; and (3) injury to the party who relied if the court allows the first party to contradict or repudiate such admission, statement or act.
See also Ellerbroek v. CHS Inc., 13 Wn.App.2d 278, 463 P.3d 750 (2020); Comment, WPI 302.06 (Excuse of Performance—Estoppel). Equitable estoppel is not favored by the courts. Newport Yacht Basin Ass'n of Condo. Owners v. Supreme Nw., Inc., 168 Wn.App. 56, 277 P.3d 18 (2012).
Each of the elements of equitable estoppel must be proved by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Lybbert v. Grant Cnty., 141 Wn.2d 29, 35, 1 P.3d 1124 (2000); Berschauer/Phillips, 124 Wn.2d at 831. When equitable estoppel is asserted against the government, two additional elements (avoidance of “manifest injustice” and preservation of governmental functions) must be established. Wilson v. Wash. State Dep't of Ret. Sys., 15 Wn.App.2d 111, 475 P.3d 193 (2020).
In a number of cases the courts have described the second element as action “on the faith of” the other party's statement or act. See, e.g., Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1 v. Wash. Pub. Power Supply Sys., 104 Wn.2d 353, 365, 705 P.2d 1195 (1985). In Leonard v. Washington Employers, Inc., 77 Wn.2d 271, 461 P.2d 538 (1969), the court explained that these elements are not necessarily sufficient: “Not all those who rely upon another's conduct or statement may raise an estoppel. Rather it is only those who have a right to rely upon such acts or representations.” For example, the party claiming to have been induced to act must either have been ignorant of the true facts or without the means of acquiring such facts. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1, 104 Wn.2d at 365. According to the court in Leonard, “absent fraud or misrepresentation, estoppel runs in favor only of those who have reasonably relied on another's conduct or declarations.” Leonard, 77 Wn.2d at 280.
Generally, a party asserting estoppel must have “clean hands,” or be free from fault, see, e.g., Kirk v. Moe, 114 Wn.2d 550, 557, 789 P.2d 84 (1990), and Rhoades v. City of Battle Ground, 115 Wn.App. 752, 769–70, 63 P.3d 142 (2003), unless allowing the estoppel would protect the public interest and the non-moving party is more culpable. See Ellis v. William Penn Life Assur. Co. of Am., 124 Wn.2d 1, 873 P.2d 1185 (1994).
[Current as of April 2021.]
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