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Equitable Estoppel in California

What is equitable estoppel in California?  The doctrine of estoppel is codified in California Evidence Code section 623, which states:

“When a party has, by his own statement or conduct, intentionally and deliberately led another to believe a particular thing true and to act upon such belief, he is not, in any litigation arising out of such statement or conduct, permitted to contradict it.”

Four elements must ordinarily be proved to establish an equitable estoppel: (1) the party to be estopped must know the facts, (2) he must intend that his conduct shall be acted upon, or must so act that the party asserting the estoppel had the right to believe that it was so intended, (3) the party asserting the estoppel must be ignorant of the true state of the facts, and (4) he must rely upon the conduct to his injury. DRG/Beverly Hills, Ltd. v. Chopstix Dim Sum Café & Takeout III, Ltd. (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 54, 59; Insurance Co. of the West v. Haralambos Beverage Co. (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 1308, 1321.

An estoppel may arise from silence where there is a duty to speak. Spray, Gould & Bowers v. Associated Internat. Ins. Co. (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1260, 1268. An estoppel from silence exists where a party with a duty to speak has an opportunity to do so, yet remains silent knowing that the circumstances require him to speak. Id.  For example, as fiduciaries of their clients, real estate agents are required to act with the highest good faith, and have a duty to disclose all facts within their knowledge that are material to the matter in which they are employed. Wyatt v. Union Mort. Co. (1979) 24 C3d 773, 782; Bate v. Marsteller (1959) 175 Cal.App.2d 573, 580-581.