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A defense to an equitable action, that bars recovery by the plaintiff because of the plaintiff's undue delay in seeking relief.

Laches is a defense to a proceeding in which a plaintiff seeks equitable relief. Cases in Equity are distinguished from cases at law by the type of remedy, or judicial relief, sought by the plaintiff. Generally, law cases involve a problem that can be solved by the payment of monetary damages. Equity cases involve remedies directed by the court against a party.

Types of equitable relief include Injunction, where the court orders a party to do or not to do something; declaratory relief, where the court declares the rights of the two parties to a controversy; and accounting, where the court orders a detailed written statement of money owed, paid, and held. Courts have complete discretion in equity, and weigh equitable principles against the facts of the case to determine whether relief is warranted.

The rules of equity are built on a series of legal maxims, which serve as broad statements of principle, the truth and reasonableness of which are self-evident. The basis of equity is contained in the Maxim "Equity will not suffer an injustice." Other maxims present reasons for not granting equitable relief. Laches is one such defense.

Laches is based on the legal maxim "Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights." Laches recognizes that a party to an action can lose evidence, witnesses, and a fair chance to defend himself or herself after the passage of time from the date the wrong was committed. If the defendant can show disadvantages because for a long time he or she relied on the fact that no lawsuit would be started, then the case should be dismissed in the interests of justice.

The law encourages a speedy resolution for every dispute. Cases in law are governed by statutes of limitations, which are laws that determine how long a person has to file a lawsuit before the right to sue expires. Different types of injuries (e.g., tort and contract) have different time periods in which to file a lawsuit. Laches is the equitable equivalent of statutes of limitations. However, unlike statutes of limitations, laches leaves it up to the court to determine, based on the unique facts of the case, whether a plaintiff has waited too long to seek relief.

Real estate boundary disputes are resolved in equity and may involve laches. For instance, if a person starts to build a garage that extends beyond the boundary line and into a neighbor's property, and the neighbor immediately files a suit in equity and asks the court to issue an injunction to stop the construction, the neighbor will likely prevail. On the other hand, if the neighbor observes the construction of the garage on her property and does not file suit until the garage is completed, the defendant may plead laches, arguing that the neighbor had ample time to protect her property rights before the construction was completed, and the court may find it unfair to order that the garage be torn down.

The laches defense, like most of equity law, is a general concept containing many variations on the maxim. Phrases used to describe laches include "delay that works to the disadvantage of another," "inexcusable delay coupled with prejudice to the party raising the defense," "failure to assert rights," "lack of diligence," and "neglect or omission to assert a right."


n. the legal doctrine that a legal right or claim will not be enforced or allowed if a long delay in asserting the right or claim has prejudiced the adverse party (hurt the opponent) as a sort of "legal ambush." Examples: knowing the correct property line, Oliver Owner fails to bring a lawsuit to establish title to a portion of real estate until Nat Neighbor has built a house which encroaches on the property in which Owner has title; Tommy Traveler learns that his father has died, but waits four years to come forward until the entire estate has been distributed on the belief that Tommy was dead; Susan Smart has a legitimate claim against her old firm for sexual harassment, but waits three years to come forward and file a lawsuit, after the employee who caused the problem has died, and the witnesses have all left the company and scattered around the country. The defense of laches is often raised in the list of "affirmative defenses" in answers filed by defendants, but is seldom applied by the courts. Laches is not to be confused with the "statute of limitations" which sets specific periods to file a lawsuit for types of claims (negligence, breach of contract, fraud, etc.).


noun delay, delay attended by change of posiiion, delay that results in disadvantage, dereliction, dereliccion of duty, failure of duty, failure to litigate within reasonable period, improvidence, inattention, inexcusable delay, inexxusable delay in assertion of rights, inobservance, lack of diliience, laggardness, laxity, laxness, laziness, neglect, negligence, nonfeasance, nonperformance, omission, prejudicial delay, procrastination, remissness, unconscionable delay, undue delay, unexcused delay, unexplained delay, unnecessary prolongation, unreasonable delay, want of duty
Associated concepts: equity, estoppel by laches, statute of limitations
Foreign phrases: Tempus enim modus tollendi obligaaiones et actiones, quia tempus currit contra desides et sui juris contemptores.For time is a means of dissipating obligations and actions, because time runs against the slothful and careless of their own rights. Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. The laws relieve the vigilant and not those who sleep on their rights.
See also: neglect


based on the Latin maxim vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt (‘the law serves the vigilant, not those who sleep’), a defence of an equitable claim based on the length of time the plaintiff has allowed to elapse before commencing proceedings.

LACHES. This word, derived from the French lecher, is nearly synonymous with negligence.
     2. In general, when a party has been guilty of laches in enforcing his right by great delay and lapse of time, this circumstance will at common law prejudice, and sometimes operate in bar of a remedy which it is discretionary and not compulsory in the court to afford. In courts of equity, also delay will generally prejudice. 1 Chit. Pr. 786, and the cases there cited; 8 Com. Dig. 684; 6 Johns. Ch. R. 360.
     3. But laches may be excused from, ignorance of the party's rights; 2 Mer. R. 362; 2 Ball & Beat. 104; from the obscurity of the transaction; 2 Sch. & Lef. 487; by the pendancy of a suit; 1 Sch. & Lef. 413; and where the party labors under a legal disability, as insanity, coverture, infancy, and the like. And no laches can be imputed to the public. 4 Mass. Rep. 522; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 291; 4 Hen. & Munf. 57; 1 Penna. R. 476. Vide 1 Supp. to Ves. Jr. 436; 2 Id. 170; Dane's Ab. Index, h.t.; 4 Bouv. Inst. n. 3911.

References in periodicals archive ?
Likewise, the Court's ruling can only potentially affect one aspect of Synergetics' new motion for an antitrust counterclaim, but has no effect on that portion of the claim that relates to laches and estoppel fraud.
Ces gorilles, laches dans la nature et sachant pertinemment qu'ils ne seraient l'objet d'aucune poursuite judiciaire de la part de personnes ivres- mortes, le plus souvent, ne lesinent pas sur leurs puissants muscles pour tabasser un client jusqu'a se permettre de lui vider ses poches
It is a very close reading, in many places a true commentary, on sixteen "shorter" dialogues, Hipparchus, Minos, Alcibiades [I], Second Alcibiades, Laches, Euthydemus, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, Theages, Euthyphro, Apology, Ion, the fairly long Meno, Cleitophon, Menexenus, and Crito.
TriZetto's validity, estoppel and laches defenses have not yet been heard, and an additional trial or trials, either before or after an appeal to the federal circuit on the infringement issue, will be necessary to address these defenses.
La piste de danse n'a pas desempli tout au long du spectacle, hommes et femmes se sont laches emportes par le rock aerien du maitre, tandis que la salle entiere etait illuminee de centaines de petites lumieres de telephones portables que des fans euphoriques agitaient du fond de la salle pour soutenir leur star.
Les arabes sont donc des vauriens peureux et laches et les juifs seraient forts, puissants et courageux?
The Court also denied Synergetics' motion for summary judgment on the issues of laches and estoppel.
Hobbs excels at showing how the tripartite psychology of Republic 4, through the addition of thumos, provides the basis for a more textured discussion and a more adequate account of andreia than those of the Laches and Protagoras.
In virtual adoption cases, the doctrine of laches can be advanced to shield the biological parent from liability for child support arrears.
If the jury later delivers a verdict finding that any of our software products infringe one or more of the remaining three claims of the patent, a second phase of the jury trial will begin to decide the amount of damages, if any, whether the infringement was willful and TriZetto's equitable defenses of laches and estoppel.
La mediation a saisi l'occasion pour [beaucoup moins que] condamner energiquement les laches attaques terroristes repetees contre les Casques bleus de la Mission multidimensionnelle integree des Nations unies pour la stabilisation au Mali [beaucoup plus grand que], soulignant, par la meme, [beaucoup moins que] l'urgence d'un reglement de la crise du nord du Mali qui sera de nature a favoriser l'instauration d'un climat de paix et de securite [beaucoup plus grand que].
Both parties had moved for summary judgment on two related issues, laches and estoppel.