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Legal Dictionary

laches

Legal Definition of laches

Noun

  1. A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. When you claim that a person's legal suit against you is not valid because of this, you would call it "estoppel by laches".

Definition of laches

Etymology

    From French lāches ("lets go").

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /lętʃəz/ SAMPA: /l{atS@z/ (UK)

Homophones

latches

Noun

laches (uncountable)

  1. (law) Legal doctrine that a person who waits too long to bring a claim alleging a wrong shall not be permitted to seek an equitable remedy.

References

  • prof. dr. W. Martin, prof. dr. G.A.J. Tops et.al., Groot Woordenboek Engels-Nederlands, Van Dale Lexicografie, Utrecht/Antwerpen, 1998 [English-Dutch dictionary]

Further reading

Laches (equity)

Laches (pronounced /ˈlętʃɨz/) (f. French, lachesse, laches) is an equitable defense, or doctrine. The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has "slept on its rights," and that, as a result of this delay, that other party is no longer entitled to its original claim. Put another way, failure to assert one's rights in a timely manner can result in a claim's being barred by laches. Laches is a form of estoppel for delay. In Latin,

    Vigilantibus non dormientibus ęquitas subvenit.
    Equity aids the vigilant, not the sleeping ones (that is, those who sleep on their rights).

In most contexts, an essential element of laches is the requirement that the party invoking the doctrine has changed its position as a result of the delay. In other words, the defendant is in a worse position now than at the time the claim should have been brought. For example, the delay in asserting the claim may have caused a great increase in the potential damages to be awarded, or assets that could earlier have been used to satisfy the claim may have been distributed in the meantime, or the property in question may already have been sold, or evidence or testimony may no longer be available to defend against the claim.

A defense lawyer raising the defense of laches against a motion for injunctive relief (a form of equitable relief) might argue that the plaintiff comes "waltzing in at the eleventh hour" when it is now too late to grant the relief sought, at least not without causing great harm that the plaintiff could have avoided. In certain types of cases (for example, cases involving time-sensitive matters, such as elections), a delay of even a few days is likely to be met with a defense of laches, even where the applicable statute of limitations might allow the type of action to be commenced within a much longer time period.

A successful defense of laches will find the court denying the request for equitable relief. However, even if equitable relief is not available, the party may still have an action at law if the statute of limitations has not run out.

Under the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, laches is an affirmative defense, which means that the burden of asserting laches is on the party responding to the claim to which it applies. "When the defense of laches is clear on the face of the complaint, and where it is clear that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts to avoid the insuperable bar, a court may consider the defense on a motion to dismiss." Solow v. Nine West Group, 2001 WL 736794, *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 29, 2001); Simons v. United States, 452 F.2d 1110, 1116 (2d Cir. 1971) (affirming Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal based, in part, on laches where papers "reveal no reason for the inordinate and prejudicial delay")

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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