HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

In
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omnipres ...
legal systems, laches ( "latches", ;
Law French Law French ( nrf, Louai Français, enm, Lawe Frensch) is an archaic language originally based on Old Norman and Anglo-Norman, but increasingly influenced by Parisian French and, later, English. It was used in the law courts of England, be ...
: ''remissness'', ''dilatoriness'', from Old French ''laschesse'') is a lack of diligence and activity in making a legal claim, or moving forward with legal enforcement of a right, particularly in regard to equity. This means that it is an ''unreasonable'' delay that can be viewed as prejudicing the opposing party. When asserted in litigation, it is an equity defense, that is, a defense to a claim for an equitable remedy. The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has "slept on its rights", and that, as a result of this delay, circumstances have changed, witnesses or evidence may have been lost or no longer available, etc., such that it is no longer a just resolution to grant the
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of t ...
's claim. Laches is associated with the maxim of equity, "Equity aids the vigilant", not those who sleep on their rights. Put another way, failure to assert one's rights in a timely manner can result in a claim being barred by laches.


Origin, definition, overview

Laches is a legal term derived from the
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French: ) was the language spoken in most of the northern half of France from approximately the 8th to the 14th centuries. Rather than a unified language, Old French was a linkage of Romance dialects, mutually intellig ...
''laschesse,'' meaning "remissness" or "dilatoriness," and is viewed as the opposite of "vigilance." The United States Supreme Court case ''Costello v. United States'' 365 US 265, 282 (1961) is often cited for a definition of laches.Costello defined Laches as "Lack of diligence by the party against whom the defense is asserted combined with prejudice to the party asserting the defense". Invoking laches is a reference to a lack of diligence and activity in making a legal claim, or moving forward with legal enforcement of a right, in particular with regard to equity, and so is an "unreasonable delay pursuing a right or claim, in a way that prejudices the pposingparty". When asserted in litigation, it is an equitable defense, that is, a defense to a claim for an equitable remedy. The essential element of ''laches'' is an unreasonable delay by the plaintiff in bringing the claim; because laches is an equitable defense, it is ordinarily applied only to claims for equitable relief (such as injunctions), and not to claims for legal relief (such as damages). The person invoking laches is asserting that an opposing party has "slept on its rights", and that, as a result of this delay, witnesses and/or evidence may have been lost or no longer available, and circumstances have changed such that it is no longer just to grant the
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of t ...
's original claim; hence, laches is associated with the maxim of equity: ''Vigilantibus non dormientibus æquitas subvenit'' ("Equity aids the vigilant, not the sleeping ones
hat is, those who sleep on their rights A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safety, or as a fashion accessory. Hats which incorporate mecha ...
). Put another way, failure to assert one's rights in a timely manner can result in a claim being barred by laches. Sometimes courts will also require that the party invoking the doctrine has changed its position as a result of the delay, but that requirement is more typical of the related (but more stringent) defense and equally cause of action of estoppel.


Components

A claim of laches requires the following components: # a delay in bringing the action, # a delay that is unreasonable and # that prejudices the defendant.


Delay

The period of delay begins when the plaintiff knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that the cause of action existed; the period of delay ends only when the legal action is formally filed. Informing or warning the defendant of the cause of action (for example by sending a cease-and-desist letter or merely ''threatening'' a lawsuit) does ''not'', by itself, end the period of delay.


Unreasonableness

In order to invoke laches, the delay by the opposing party in initiating the lawsuit must be unreasonable. The courts have recognized the following causes of delay as reasonable: * the exhaustion of remedies through the administrative process * the evaluation and preparation of a complicated claim * to determine whether the scope of proposed infringement will justify the cost of litigation By contrast, it is ''not'' reasonable to delay a lawsuit to "capitalize on the value of the infringer's labor". In ''Danjaq v. Sony'', the Ninth Circuit decided that a screenwriter who waited for a film studio to publicize and distribute a film based on a script he allegedly owned had delayed his lawsuit unreasonably.


Prejudice

Unreasonable delay must prejudice the defendant. Examples of such prejudice include: * evidence favorable to the defendant becoming lost or degraded * witnesses favorable to the defendant dying or losing their memories * the defendant making economic decisions (e.g. investing in a movie or a manufacturing process) that it would not have done, had the lawsuit been filed earlier. Unreasonable delay may also prejudice the rights of third-parties who were unknown in the case, earlier but whose rights got created in the intervening period of the delay (e.g.: the defendant inducts new persons on a disputed property by sale, or by lease)


Procedure

A defense lawyer raising the defense of ''laches'' against a motion for
injunctive relief An injunction is a legal and equitable remedy in the form of a special court order that compels a party to do or refrain from specific acts. ("The court of appeals ... has exclusive jurisdiction to enjoin, set aside, suspend (in whole or in pa ...
(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 A statute of limitations, known in civil law systems as a prescriptive period, is a law passed by a legislative body to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. ("Time for commencing proceedings") In ...
might allow the type of action to be commenced within a much longer time period. In courts in the United States, laches has often been applied even where a statute of limitations exists, although there is a division of authority on this point. If a court does accept the laches defense, it can decide either to deny the request for equitable relief or to narrow the equitable relief that it would otherwise give. Even if the court denies equitable relief to a plaintiff because of laches, the plaintiff may still have a claim for legal relief 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. The ''laches'' defense does not apply if the claimant was a minor during the time that the claim was not brought, so a party can bring a claim against an historical injustice when they reach their majority.


Compared to statute of limitations

The defense of ''laches'' resembles a
statute of limitations A statute of limitations, known in civil law systems as a prescriptive period, is a law passed by a legislative body to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. ("Time for commencing proceedings") In ...
since both are concerned with ensuring that plaintiffs bring their claims in a timely fashion. However, a statute of limitations is concerned only with the time that has passed. Laches is concerned with the reasonableness of the delay in a particular situation and so is more case-specific and more focused on the equitable conduct of the plaintiff. Those considerations are not unique to the laches defense because they are characteristic of equitable reasoning and equitable remedies. Whereas, limitation is a statutory remedy. In the US, the proper disposal of claims in light of those two areas of law has required attention through to the Supreme Court. In ''
Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ''Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.'', 572 U.S. 663 (2014), is a United States Supreme Court copyright decision in which the Court held 6-3 that the equitable defense of laches is not available to copyright defendants in claims for damages. ...
'' (2014), the
US Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all U.S. federal court cases, and over state court cases that involve a point of ...
rebuffed a defendant's claim that laches barred a copyright infringement suit because Congress had established a detailed statutory scheme, including a statute of limitations.


Examples

In the Virginia Republican primary for the 2012 US presidential election, several candidates did not appear on the ballot because they failed to obtain sufficient petition signatures in time. Four of the unsuccessful candidates— Rick Perry,
Jon Huntsman Jon Huntsman may refer to: * Jon Huntsman Sr. (1937–2018), corporate executive and philanthropist (father of Jon Huntsman Jr.) * Jon Huntsman Jr. (born 1960), U.S. politician and the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, China and Singapore * John A. ...
, Newt Gingrich, and
Rick Santorum Richard John Santorum ( ; born May 10, 1958) is an American politician, attorney, and political commentator. A member of the Republican Party, he served as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007 and was the Senate's third ...
—sued, claiming that restrictions on the persons allowed to gather signatures were unconstitutional. Their claim was dismissed by the district court on the grounds of laches, because, in the words of the appellate court: The appeals court upheld the dismissal on grounds of laches, but it added that the challenge would likely have succeeded if it had been brought in a timely fashion. In Grand Haven, Michigan, the Northwest Ottawa Community Health System sued Grand Haven Township and Health Pointe, which was in the process of building a competing medical facility in the township, arguing that the township ignored its own zoning ordinance in approving the project. On March 24, 2017, as part of the ruling dismissing the lawsuit, Circuit Court Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg noted that the Northwest Ottawa Community Health System delayed more than eight months from the date the project was approved before filing the lawsuit and that during that time, plaintiff Health Pointe had purchased construction materials. Therefore, the doctrine of laches invalidated a lawsuit that was filed so long after the fact.


See also

*
Adverse possession Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as "squatter's rights", is a legal principle in the Anglo-American common law under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land ( real property)—ma ...
*
Estoppel by acquiescence In law, acquiescence occurs when a person knowingly stands by, without raising any objection to, the infringement of their rights, while someone else unknowingly and without malice aforethought acts in a manner inconsistent with their rights. As ...
*
Equitable tolling Tolling is a legal doctrine that allows for the pausing or delaying of the running of the period of time set forth by a statute of limitations, such that a lawsuit may potentially be filed even after the statute of limitations has run. Although gro ...
* Submarine patent *
Statute of limitations A statute of limitations, known in civil law systems as a prescriptive period, is a law passed by a legislative body to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. ("Time for commencing proceedings") In ...


Notes


External links


Nair, Manisha Singh (2006) "Laches and Acquiescence"
in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the so ...
n intellectual property law {{DEFAULTSORT:Laches (Equity) Equity (law) Equitable defenses Legal doctrines and principles