Conditions Governing The Admissibility Of A Motion To Dismiss Based On Estoppel

Author:Ms Isabelle Cottin
Profession:Soulier Avocats

Laid down by the Plenary Assembly of the Cour de Cassation in February 20091, the principle of estoppel ensures a consistency in litigants' discussions before a court of law as it prohibits a party to contradicts itself at the expense of others.

Since the beginning of the year 2018, the Cour de Cassation has delivered no less than seven decisions that further specify the nature and the scope of this principle under French law.

Based on the numerous decisions rendered by the Cour de Cassation, the conditions for implementing the principle according to which "no one may contradict himself/herself at the expense of others" appear quite strict.

The Cour de Cassation has clarified in particular that:

Estoppel could only be upheld in case of a change of legal position which is likely to mislead the other party on one's intentions2. Estoppel requires that the claims of the party against whom the estoppel is being raised mislead the opponent on the intentions of that party3. A party does not contradict itself wherever it raises incompatible pleas in legal proceedings conducted respectively in France and in the USA4. On appeal, the parties may raise new pleas without contradicting themselves at the expenses of others5. Contrary allegations made during previous proceedings must not be considered by the trial judge insofar as the parties have not changed their claims during the ongoing proceedings6. In six decisions handed down on March 15, 2018, the Second Civil Chamber of the Cour de Cassation further specified that estoppel is a "a procedural behavior which consists, for a party to adopt, in the course of the same proceedings, contradictory or incompatible stances in conditions that mislead the opponent on said party's intentions7". As such, a motion to dismiss based on estoppel was rejected because the plaintiff did not fall into contradictions during the course of the then ongoing proceedings.

In a decision dated June 28, 2018, the Third Civil Chamber of the Cour de Cassation specified that estoppel was only admissible if there has been "a contradiction at the expense of others during the discussions [between the litigants] before the court"8.

In the matter at hand, the dispute was between a co-owner and an association of co-owners. The co-owner sought the nullification of the decision of the general meeting of co-owners during which the decision had been made to eliminate the janitor's position. The co-owner had voted...

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