Laches – unreasonable delay in pursuing a right or claim, thus causing a court to deny relief that would otherwise be granted

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[Law French “remissness; slackness”]


1. Unreasonable delay in pursuing a right or
claim — almost always are equitable one — in a way that prejudices the party against whom relief is sought. — aka sleeping on rights.

2. The equitable doctrine by which a court denies relief to a claimant who has unreasonably delayed in asserting the claim, when that delay has prejudiced the party against whom relief is sought. [1]

1. A doctrine, otherwise known as the doctrine of state demand, by which equitable relief is denied to one who has been guilty of unconscionable delay, as shown by surrounding facts and circumstances, in seeking that relief.  Anno: 34 ALR2d 1314 § 1.
More precisely, such neglect or omission to assert a right, taken in conjunction with lapse of time and other circumstances causing prejudice to an adverse party, as will operate as a bar to relief in equity.  Re O’Donnell’s Estate, 8 I11 App 2d 348, 132 NE2d 74; Boehnke v Roenfanz, 246 Iowa 240, 67 NW2d 585, 54 ALR2d 1; Simmerman v Ft. Hartford Coal Co. 310 Ky 572, 221 SW2d 442, 11 ALR2d 381; Aronovitch v Levy, 238 Minn 237, 56 NW2d 570, 34 ALR2d 1306. [2]

1. The equitable doctrine that a plaintiff’s neglect or failure to assert a right that may cause the court to deny him relief if, as a result, the defendant has changed position so that the defendant’s rights are at risk. [3]

     Excerpt from William F. Walsh’s A Treatise on Equity:

     “The doctrine of laches… is an instance of the exercise of the reserved power of equity to withhold relief otherwise regularly given where in the particular case the granting of such relief would be unfair or unjust.” [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: William F. Walsh, A Treatise on Equity 472 (1930)


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