Legal Memorandum: Equitable Estoppel Defense in NY

Issue: Can equitable estoppel be used to bar the statute of limitations as a defense in New York?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Equitable estoppel; Statute of limitations
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 406 N.Y.S.2d 259; 426 N.Y.S.2d 359; 775 N.Y.S.2d 681; 377 N.E.2d 713
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2013

Holmes v. Lorch, 329 F. Supp. 2d 516 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (elements of equitable estoppel include: (1) conduct amounting to false representation or concealment of material facts; intent that conduct will be acted upon by other party; and (3) knowledge or real facts; party asserting estoppel must show (1) no knowledge of true facts; (2) reliance on conduct of party to be estopped; and (3) prejudicial change in position because of the conduct; defendant promised to provide for plaintiff if plaintiff kept silent about long-term child sexual abuse)

Mars v. Diocese of Rochester, 196 Misc. 2d 349, 351 763 N.Y.S.2d 885, 888 (Sup. Ct. 2003) (setting forth doctrine of equitable estoppel to toll limitations period; court conclude archdiocese did not have fiduciary relationship with plaintiff, and even if it did, estoppel did not toll limitations period), aff’d, 6 A.D.3d 1120, 775 N.Y.S.2d 681 (4th Dep’t 2004).  Supreme Court opinion states:


The doctrine of equitable estoppel tolling the applicable statute of limitations is well recognized in New York jurisprudence.  “[A] defendant may be estopped to plead the Statute of Limitations where plaintiff was induced by fraud, misrepresentations or deception to refrain from filing a timely action.” (Simcuski v. Saeli, 44 N.Y.2d 442, 447–448, 406 N.Y.S.2d 259, 377 N.E.2d 713 [1978] ). “[W]here a defendant induces a plaintiff to refrain from instituting an action, either by false statements of fact or by active concealment of the true facts, he may be estopped from using […]

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