Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Judicial estoppel explained


The doctrine of judicial estoppel “precludes a party from adopting a position inconsistent with one that it maintained successfully in an earlier proceeding.” Pleasant Glade Assembly of God v. Schubert, 264 S.W.3d 1, 6 (Tex. 2008) (quoting 2 Roy W. McDonald & Elaine G. Carlson, Texas Civil Practice § 9.51 at 576 (2d ed. 2003)).


The doctrine is not strictly speaking estoppel, but rather is a rule of procedure based on justice and sound public policy. Id.; Long v. Knox, 155 Tex. 581, 291 S.W.2d 292, 295 (1956). Its essential function “is to prevent the use of intentional self-contradiction as a means of obtaining unfair advantage.” Pleasant Glade Assembly of God, 264 S.W.3d at 6; Andrews v. Diamond, Rash, Leslie & Smith, 959 S.W.2d 646, 650 (Tex. App.—El Paso 1997, writ denied); Hall v. GE Plastic Pac. PTE Ltd., 327 F.3d 391, 396 (5th Cir. 2003) (noting basis for estoppel is the assertion of a position clearly inconsistent with a previous position accepted by the court); Tenneco Chems., Inc. v. William T. Burnett & Co., 691 F.2d 658, 665 (4th Cir.1982) (finding “the determinative factor is whether the appellant intentionally misled the court to gain an unfair advantage”).


This doctrine requires that: (1) a sworn, inconsistent statement be made in a prior judicial proceeding; (2) the party making the statement gained some advantage by it; (3) the statement was not made inadvertently or because of mistake, fraud, or duress; and (4) the statement was deliberate, clear, and unequivocal. Galley v. Apollo Associated Servs., Ltd., 177 S.W.3d 523, 528–29 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, no pet.); see also Pagosa Oil & Gas, L.L.C. v. Marrs & Smith P’ship, 323 S.W.3d 203, 218 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2010, pet. denied) (holding same).

SOURCE: HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS - 01-10-01016-CV - 5/2/12

The species of judicial estoppel alleged in this case is “based on the principle that a party should not be permitted to abuse the judicial process by obtaining one recovery based first on affirming a certain state of facts, and then another recovery based on denying the same set of facts.” Metroflight, Inc. v. Shaffer, 581 S.W.2d 704, 709 (Tex. Civ. App.—Dallas 1979, writ ref’d n.r.e).

Because the doctrines of double recovery and judicial estoppel do not entitle Ormiston and Allied to judgment as a matter of law, the trial court erred in granting a directed verdict in their favor. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

LEGAL TERMS: judicial estoppel, equitable estoppel 

1 comment:

  1. Is it your opinion from your research on this topic that "earlier proceeding" could mean a prior portion of an existing proceeding? Consider: party swears to liability on a contract in an answer, and then in a response to MSJ, denies liability. It seems that judicial estoppel or some similar procedure would bar any going back on the answer.