The clean hands doctrine is a rule of law that someone bringing a lawsuit or motion and asking the court for equitable relief must be innocent of wrongdoing or unfair conduct relating to the subject matter of his/her claim. The abuse of discretion standard also applies to the district court's application of the unclean hands doctrine (although the legal parameters of the doctrine is an issue reviewed de novo), and the court of appeals designated its opinion as not precedential. 841, 854 (S.D. “These are some of the dirtiest hands we have seen.”California’s Second District Court of Appeals wasn’t talking about in In re the Marriage of Boswell was not referring to literal dirty hands, but about the family law doctrine of “unclean hands,” a principle that in this case cost a divorced spouse more than $92,000 in unpaid child support. Second, and regrettably, the arbitration stated that the violated obligation that serves as the basis for tainting the claimant's hands as unclean must be reciprocal to the violation alleged to have been committed by the respondent: Guyana/Suriname (n 61) 687. Co., Inc. v. aRusso, 906 F. Supp. Unclean Hands. 2. What is the Clean Hands Doctrine? ( August 2005 ) Whether the unclean hands defense will reach a jury is unfortunately something of a crapshoot, largely because of the difficulties in applying it. (5 Witkin, Cal. The Clean Hands Doctrine, also called unclean hands, is a defense to a claim for equitable relief, typically an injunction or specific performance. 1995).) (Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. Superior Court, 76 Cal. Assn. 3d 1390 (1989).) If the unclean hands defense is derailed, this is the likely place the derailment will occur. Mains v. City Title Ins. This is primarily because of the conflicting evidence regarding the plaintiff’s conduct, with one set of facts painting the plaintiff a scoundrel, the other depicting the plaintiff as either innocent or at least not unforgivably tainted. Doctrine of Unclean Hands A legal theory that is similar to, and sometimes confused with, in pari delicto is the doctrine of unclean hands. Mere negligent conduct will not suffice, however. He is an accomplished jury trial veteran, a State Board Certified, Civil Litigation Attorneys Orange County CA, Top-Rated Trial Lawyers Southern California. Co., 879 F. Supp. In Potter v. Boisvert, supra, the rule of "unclean hands" was applied because plaintiff and defendant had deserted their respective spouses, come to California as husband and wife, and plaintiff deeded to defendant the realty subject of the action for the purpose of defrauding his lawful wife. App. App. Corp. v. East Bay Union of Machinists, 227 Cal. The trial court in its discretion decides if the unclean hands defense applies and may use the Blain test in doing so. But the underlying lawsuit was causally connected with the plaintiff’s own unfair trade practices aimed toward the defendant, inspiring the defendant to file the allegedly improper prior lawsuit. App. The employer’s breach of the parties’ employment relationship or unclean hands can serve as a defense to defeat a covenant not to compete or non-solicitation clause signed by the employee, even if that agreement is otherwise properly narrowly drafted and enforceable. Other cases, while giving lip service to the direct-relationship rule in rejecting the unclean hands defense, appear inspired by extraneous but compelling factors. The unclean hands doctrine is an equitable defense that precludes a plaintiff from recovering in equity due to some sort of wrongdoing or improper conduct on the part of the plaintiff. It is far more than a mere banality. Such relief is usually sought in the form of specific performance, or an injunction. App. It is an affirmative defense that the defendant may claim the plaintiff has "unclean hands". Blain thus created a three-prong test focusing on analogous case law, the nature of the plaintiff’s misconduct, and the relationship of this misconduct to the plaintiff’s claimed injuries. 1992).) 4th 298), the court wanted to discourage lenders from engaging in distant-forum abuse (suing a defendant in a court so distant that the defendant couldn’t afford to defend himself) even though the defendants apparently owed the money and took a rather cavalier attitude toward repaying it. The employer’s breach of the parties’ employment relationship or unclean hands can serve as a defense to defeat a covenant not to compete or non-solicitation clause signed by the employee, even if that agreement is otherwise properly narrowly drafted and enforceable. The defendant can bring in this defense when the plaintiff has acted in some inequitable way. Who decides if the unclean hands defense gets to the jury-and how this is decided-are key issues because the defense may be the great equalizer in a jury trial in which a faceless corporate defendant or an unsympathetic individual defendant can paint the plaintiff as the greater of two evils. (Pon v. Wittman (1905) 147 Cal. App. App. App. (Unilogic, Inc. v. Burroughs Corp., 10 Cal. rationale of unclean hands: "That doctrine is rooted in the historical concept of court of equity as a vehicle for affirmatively enforcing the requirements of conscience and good faith. The unclean hands doctrine protects judicial integrity and promotes justice. App. A. Unclean Hands. 4th 833 (1998)), the plaintiff sued her ex-employer for sexual harassment and wrongful discharge. Peter Mavrick is a Miami non-compete lawyer who has won non-compete litigation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court through the unclean hands affirmative defense. The doctrine of “clean hands” (unclean hands) justifies dismissal of a lawsuit where the opposing party has engaged in illegal, unethical or unconscionable conduct relating to the case. A defendant advocating the defense has some hope of finding analogous case law because it has been raised in a wide variety of cases, including claims of malicious prosecution (Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd., 76 Cal. 4th 620 at 628 (1995)), but it does not automatically apply to every claim thrown at a defendant. 4th 692 (1997).) And even where a finding of unclean hands is factually established, a court may still refuse to apply the doctrine if a manifest injustice will result. Your email address will not be published. San Jose Office. 4th 612 at 622-23 (1992).) 1995)). Another mutually overlapping doctrine of defense is the doctrine of unclean hands which denies a party equitable relief when there is evidence of bad faith. If it is an equitable doctrine, then the fact-finding Clean hands, sometimes called the clean hands doctrine, unclean hands doctrine, or dirty hands doctrine, is an equitable defense in which the defendant argues that the plaintiff is not entitled to obtain an equitable remedy because the plaintiff is acting unethically or has acted in bad faith with respect to the subject of the complaint —that is, with "unclean hands". Assn. 2d 469 (1948)), a husband misled the trial court into vacating a divorce decree in hopes of claiming as community property a house he’d earlier deeded to his wife, now deceased. Co. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 580, 586. Generalities such as “the misconduct must relate directly to the transaction concerning which the complaint is made and affect the equitable relations between the litigants” give scant guidance. 4th at 639). The defense also is justified as promoting justice by making a plaintiff answer for his or her misconduct. App. 4th 833 at 845, 851-52 (1998).) The court of appeal in Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. Superior Court (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 970, 978-79, summarized the doctrine of "Unclean Hands" as follows: The defense of unclean hands arises from the maxim, “He who comes into Equity must come with clean hands.” The doctrine demands that a plaintiff act fairly in the matter for which he seeks a remedy. 408.357.8073 held that under the doctrine of unclean hands, Northbay’s illegal marijuana sales prevented it from obtaining relief under § 523(a)(4). Our firm’s practice includes a strong emphasis on personal injury accidents. 4th at 846-47. The U.S. Supreme Court has also identified habeus corpus as derived from the clean hands doctrine. 3d 1043, 1061 (1988).). Cal.Rptr.2d 95] [doctrine is the basis for an equitable defense related to the traditional defense of “unclean hands,” italics added] with Salas, supra, 59 Cal.4th at p. 428 [omitting “equitable”].) The doctrine of Laches is more worried about the delay in filing the legal action. The plaintiff must have “directly ‘infected’ the actual cause of action before the court,” and be “not merely guilty of unrelated past conduct.” (Pond v. Insurance Co. of N. Corp., 53 Cal. This inquiry is guided by some general rules but thereafter is analyzed case by case. The unclean hands defense may be applied to legal as well as equitable claims and to both tort and contract claims (Camp v. Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, 35 Cal. The unclean hands doctrine is also known … (Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co. (2014) 59 … Unclean Hands - Judges should sanction Trump, supporters filing lawsuits, and lawyers for using litigation to delay official recognition. These generalities provided opaque guidelines at best to courts and litigants trying to decide if the unclean hands defense should apply. In accordance with the maxim that no one can take advantage of his or her own wrong, those who seek the aid of equity must come into court in good faith. For example: The statute of limitations in Arkansas for rape is six years. It protects judicial integrity because allowing a plaintiff with unclean hands to recover in an action creates doubts as to the justice provided by the judicial system. If it is an equitable doctrine, then the fact-finding And plaintiffs counsel should understand the defense and what buttons can be pushed in hopes of cutting off discovery on their clients’ misdeeds or convincing the court the defense is an ad hominem attack calculated to unfairly tarnish their client and confuse the jury. Pp. 2d 675 at 728.) App. 4th at 642. Nature of misconduct. See DeBurgh v. App. If the plaintiff in an equity claim is not innocent of any wrongdoing, risks dismissal of the case. The Defendant has the burden to prove that the Plaintiff is not acting in good … Though unclean hands can arise for the first time on appeal, the lack of conclusive evidence in the trial record makes it unlikely an appellate court would consider it if not raised in the trial courts. The defendant can bring in this defense when the plaintiff has acted in some inequitable way. See also, Jacobs, 53 Cal. In this suit for infringement of patents and breach of contracts related thereto, the District Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law sustained its judgment of dismissal on the ground of the complainant's "unclean hands," and the Circuit Court of Appeals' reversal of the judgment was erroneous. See Murillo v. App. (10 Cal. It does so by denying redress to a plaintiff who has unclean hands, thereby instilling trust in the judicial system. (Kelley Blue Book v. Car-Smarts, Inc., 802 F. Supp. (Jacobs v. Universal Dev. (Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd., 76 Cal. Log in, Gregory G. Brown is an Irvine, CA based business litigation attorney. The panel reversed because the debtor’s wrongdoing outweighed Northbay’s and because application of the unclean hands doctrine to absolve an attorney of For example, in Katz v. Karlsson (84 Cal. The purpose of the defense is not to protect the defendant’s interests but rather the court’s integrity. 4th 612 (1992)); abuse of process (Yu v. Signet Bank/Virginia, 103 Cal. Laches is case-specific and relies on the judge's decision as to whether a plaintiff waited too long and the defendant can't put together a reasonable defense because of their inaction. 1997)), The unclean hands defense has frequently been labeled peculiarly factual. And in Camp, the plaintiffs’ defrauding of their employer in hiding their prior felony convictions related directly to their claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy; they would not have been hired in the first place had they revealed those convictions. It has thus been viewed as a defense resistant to extirpation by a demurrer or summary judgment motion. United States Bank Nat. It is an affirmative defense that the defendant may claim the plaintiff has "unclean hands". 4th at 641; Mattco Forge, Inc., 5 Cal. The doctrine of unclean hands states that “a party seeking equity must come to court with clean hands.” It’s about basic fairness with a goal of avoiding an inequitable outcome. (35 Cal. The unclean hands doctrine typically applies only to equitable claims such as requests for injunctive relief or specific performance, but some jurisdictions permit it as a defense to legal claims as well. In Vacco the court was concerned that if it allowed the discharged employee an unclean hands defense, every fired employee would be emboldened to steal an employer’s property and then justify the theft by claiming wrongful termination. In other cases, the appeals court reversed trial courts that granted defendants demurrers or summary judgment based on the unclean hands defense. Case law is larded with generalities giving scant guidance on whether the unclean hands defense will fly. ), A common thread in cases finding the requisite relationship is a causal connection between a plaintiff’s claimed harm and his or her own misconduct or dirty hands. 1982).) The trial court then granted the defendant summary judgment based on its after-acquired evidence defense. “The doctrine of clean hands is an equitable defense which prevents recovery where the party seeking relief comes into court with unclean hands.” Ray v. Norris, 78 N.C. App. Though some cases encourage an expansive application of the relationship test to uphold the unclean hands defense’s application (see, Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd., 76 Cal. The clean hands doctrine is a rule of law that someone bringing a lawsuit or motion and asking the court for equitable relief must be innocent of wrongdoing or unfair conduct relating to the subject matter of his/her claim. This concept is called “clean hands.” If you believe the plaintiff has taken advantage of his or her own wrong doing in relation to the lawsuit, you may raise this defense. (Health Maint. Thus, in Murrillo v. Rite Stuff Foods, Inc. (65 Cal. App. Required fields are marked *. at 814 (quoting Bein v. Again, Salas appealed. derived from the unclean hands defense). (Chitkin v. Lincoln Nat’l Ins. hands is defective. (76 Cal. App. Cal. Though the court asserted that the defendants’ misconduct was unrelated to the plaintiff’s misconduct in suing them in a distant forum, it is not hard to argue for quite a direct relationship: The defendants would face no lawsuit anywhere if they paid their debts. App. Unilogic suggests the court’s discretion would be well exercised by submitting the defense to the jury when the unclean hands defense’s facts are so intertwined with legal claims that it makes no sense for the trial court to decide the same factual issues on the defense that the jury must decide on the plaintiff’s legal claims. 4th 163 at 179-80 (2000)). The third issue presented in defendants' motions was their affirmative defense of unclean hands. 4th at 621 (courts should not take “an unreasonably narrow view” of the required connection)), cases finding no direct relationship do so either based on a factual analysis or some other extraneous factor, such as public policy. You also noted that she hasn’t reimbursed you for her half of … Public policy in favor of protecting a plaintiff’s claims from the clutches of unclean hands is such a factor. The unclean hands defense may be applied to legal as well as equitable claims and to both tort and contract claims (Camp v. Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, 35 Cal. The third is called tortious interference which occurs when someone intentionally interferes with the performance of a contract. You also noted that she hasn’t reimbursed you for her half of … California Supreme Court Isn’t Completely Offended by Your Dirty Hands. “The doctrine of clean hands is an equitable defense which prevents recovery where the party seeking relief comes into court with unclean hands.” Ray v. Norris, 78 N.C. App. The misconduct “must relate directly to the transaction concerning which the complaint is made, i.e., it must pertain to the very subject matter involved and affect the equitable relations between the litigants.” (Fibreboard Prod. unclean hands n. a legal doctrine which is a defense to a complaint, which states that a party who is asking for a judgment cannot have the help of the court if he/she has done anything unethical in relation to the subject of the lawsuit. 78 at 82-83 (D.R.I. 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