Estoppel “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “estoppel” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):




A bar which stoppeth a person or closes up his mouth to allege or plead what actually may be the truth [2 Coke, Littleton 352a]. A bar which precludes a person from denying or asserting anything to the contrary of that which has, in contemplation of law, been established as the truth, either by the acts of judicial or legislative officers or by his own deed or representations, express or implied [28 Am J2d Estop § 1].

A waiver, being the intentional relinquishment of a known right, is consensual in nature and is distinguished from an estoppel which is not consensual, but is given effect to defeat the inequitable intent of the party estopped [Seavey v. Erickson, 244 Minn 232, 69 NW2d 889, 52 ALR2d 1144].

The elements of estoppel by acts or representations are reliance by a person entitled to rely on the acts and representations, the misleading of such person, and, in consequence, a change of position to his detriment, so that the person responsible for the misleading will not be permitted to deny the truth of his own statements, express or implied [29A Am J Reved Ins § 1009]. Although the terms “waiver” and “estoppel” are not convertible, the distinction between the two terms is not entirely clear in insurance cases [Grantham v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. 126 Cal App 2d Supp 855, 272 P2d 959, 48 ALR2d 1088; see judicial estoppel; promissory estoppel; waiver].



A bar or impediment raised by the law, which precludes a man from alleging or from denying a certain fact or state of facts, in consequence of his previous allegation or denial or conduct or admission, or in consequence of his previous allegation or denial or conduct or admission, or in consequence of a final adjudication of the matter in a court of law [Demarest v. Hopper, 22 N. J. Law, 619; Martin v. Railroad Co., 83 Me. 100, 21 Atl. 740; Veeder v. Mudgett, 95 N. Y. 295; South v. Deaton, 113 Ky. 312, 68 S. W. 137; Wilkins v. Suttles, 114 N. C. 550, 19 S. E. 606].

A preclusion, in law, which prevents a man from alleging or denying a fact, in consequence of his previous act, allegation, or denial of a contrary tenor [Steph. Pl. 239].

An admission of so conclusive a nature that the party whom it affeects is not permitted to aver against it or offer evidence to controvert it [2 Smith, Lead. Cas. 778].

  • Estoppel is that which concludes and “shuts a man’s mouth from speaking the truth.” When a fact has been agreed on, or decided in a court of record, neither of the parties shall be allowed to call in in question, and have it tried over again at any time thereafter, so long as the judgment or decree stands unreversed; and when parties, by deed or solemn act in pais, agree on a state of facts, and act on it, neither shall ever afterwards be allowed to gainsay a fact so agreed on, or be heard to dispute it; in other words, his mouth is shut, and he shall not say that is not true that which he had before in a solemn manner asserted to be true [Armfield v. Moore, 44 N. C. 157].

    • Collateral estoppel: the collateral determination of a question by a court having general jurisdiction of a subject [see Small v. Haskins, 26 Vt. 209].

    • Equitable estoppel: (or estoppel by conduct, or in pais) is the species of estoppel which equity puts upon a person who has made a false representation or a concealment

    • Estoppel by deed: is where a party has executed a deed, that is, a writing under seal (as a bond) reciting a certain fact, and is thereby precluded from afterwards denying, in any action brought upon that instrument, the fact so recited [Steph. Pl. 197]. A man shall always be estopped by his own deed, or not permitted to aver or prove anything in contradiction to what he has once so solemnly and deliberately avowed [2 Bl. Comm. 295; Plowd. 434; Hudson v. Winslow Tp., 35 N. J. Law, 441; Taggart v. Risley, 4 Or. 242; Appeal of Waters, 35 Pa. 526, 78 Am. Dec. 354].

    • Estoppel by election: an estoppel predicated on a voluntary and intelligent action or choice of one of several things which is inconsistent with another, the effect of the estoppel being to precent the party so choosing from afterwards reversing his election or disputing the state of affairs or rights of others resulting from his original choice [Yates v. Hurd, S. Colo. 343. 8 Pac. 575].

    • Estoppel by judgment: the estoppel raised by the rendition of a valid judgment by a court having jurisdiction, which prevents the parties to the action, and all who are in privity with them, from afterwards disputing or drawing into controversy the particular facts or issues on which the judgment was based or which were or might have been litigated in the action [2 Bl. Judgm. § 504; State v. Torinus, 28 Minn. 175, 9 S. W. 725].

    • Estoppel by matter in pais: an estoppel by the conduct or admissions of a party; an estoppel not arising from deed or matter of record. Thus, where one man has accepted rent of another, he will be estopped from afterwards denying, in any action with that person, that he was, at the time of such acceptance, his tenant [Steph. Pl. 197]. The doctrine of estoppels in pais is one which, so far at least as that term is concerned, has grown up chiefly within the last few years. But is is, and always was, a familiar principle in the law of contracts. It lies at the foundation of morals, and is a cardinal point in the exposition of promises, that one shall be bound by the state of facts which he has induced another to act upon [Redfield, C. J., Strong v. Ellsworth, 26 Vt. 366, 373. and see West Winstead Sav. Bank v. Ford, 27 Conn. 290, 71 Am. Dec. 66; Davis v. Davis, 26 Cal. 38, 85 Am. Dec. 157; Bank v. Dean, 60 N. Y. Super. Ct. 299, 17 N. Y. Supp. 375; Coogler v. Rogers, 25 Fla. 853, 7 South. 391; Merchants’ Nat. Bank v. State Nat. Bank, 10 Wall. 645, 19 L. Ed. 1008; Hanly v. Watterson, 39 W. Va. 214, 19 S. E. 536; Barnard v. Seminary, 49 Mich. 444, 13 N. W. 811].

    • Estoppel by matter of record: an estoppel founded upon matter of record; as a confession or admission made in pleading in a court of record, which precludes the party from afterwards contesting the same fact in the same suit [Steph. Pl. 197].

    • Estoppel by verdict: this term is sometimes applied to the estoppel arising from a former adjudication of the same fact or issue between the same parties or their privies [Chicago Theological Seminary v. People, 189 Ill. 439, 59 N. E. 977; Swank v. Railway Co., 61 Minn. 423, 63 N. W. 1088]. But this use is not correct, as it is not the verdict which creates an estoppel, but the judgment, and it is immaterial whether a jury participated in the trial or not.

  • In pleading: a plea, replication, or other pleading, which, without confessing or denying the matter of fact adversely alleged, relies merely on some matter of estoppel as a ground for excluding the opposite party from the allegation of the fact [Steph. Pl. 219; 3 Bl. Comm. 308].

A plea which neither admits nor denies the facts alleged by the plaintiff, but denies his right to allege them [Gould, Pl. c. 2, § 39].

A special plea in bar, which happens where a man has done some act or executed some deed which precludes him from averring anything to the contrary [3 Bl. Comm. 308].

  • Estoveria sunt ardendim, arandi, construendi et claudendi: [13 Coke, 68]. Estovers are of fire-bote, plow-bote, house-bote, and hedge-bote.



ESTOP’PEL, n. In law, a stop; a plea in bar, grounded on a man’s own act or deed, which estops or precludes him from averring any thing to the contrary

  • If a tenant for years levies a fine to another person, it shall work as an estoppel to the cognizor.

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