Estoppel

 

 

 

The French Supreme Court in charge with private matters (Cour de cassation) expressly ruled on 15 March 2018 the criteria whereby it is forbidden to contradict oneself at the expense of others (expression which is considered as the equivalent of the English estoppel concept).

 

As far as case law is concerned, the estoppel concept was expressively used and named as such by the Cour de cassation on 6 July 2005 in the field of arbitration (Cass. civ. 1st, 6 July 2005). On 27 February 2009, the Cour de cassation (plenary session) opened the possibility to introduce the concept of estoppel by way of principle, if not, in the specific case (Ass. Plen., 29 February 2009).

 

In the decision dated 15 March 2018, the French Supreme Court states that “the collateral estoppel (la fin de non-recevoir) based on the principle that it is forbidden to contradict oneself at the expense of others penalises the procedure behavior which consists, for a party, within the same instance, to adopt contradictory or incompatible positions in conditions where the opponent is misled on the intentions of the said party”.

 

It might sound peculiar, for a French supreme Court, to use the English legal concept of estoppel without naming it as this legal concept is not inserted in the French Code de procédure civile as such.One can only see with obviousness the influence of Anglo-Saxon legal concepts. In this perspective, it has to be observed that the English criteria of estoppel were set out almost a century ago by Lord Birkenhead in the case Maclaine v Gatty [1921] 1 AC 376, 386 (see Ewan McKendrick, contract law, palgrave macmillan, for example 9th edition p. 92).

 

The rule of Macklaine v Gatty is based on the following sentence: “where A has by his words or conduct justified B in believing that a certain state of facts exists, and B has acted upon such belief to his prejudice, A is not permitted to affirm against B that a different state of facts existed at the same time” (Ewan McKendrick op. cit.). It can be asserted that the legal principle which underpins the rule is legal safety (even if loyalty and consistency are also part of the concept of Estoppel).

 

In this perspective, the rule is consistent with the existence of a legal order, where legal safety is crucial to its structure.

 

 

Up to date as of 15 March 2018

 

 

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