Case Caption: Mervette Brown as Personal Representative for the Estate of Eric Browne v. Quinton StanleyCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0042Date: 02/02/2017Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

In a lawsuit seeking an order directing the defendant landowner to remove a portion of a fence encroaching on the plaintiff neighbor's property, the circuit court did not err in denying the defendant relief under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. In the Virgin Islands, equitable estoppel requires a demonstration that (1) the party to be estopped made a material misrepresentation (2) that induced reasonable reliance by the asserting party and (3) resulted in the asserting party's detriment. This doctrine is applied with great caution in the context of real property. In this case, having heard conflicting testimony, the Superior Court did not clearly err in concluding that there was an oral agreement allowing the defendant to construct a fence on the plaintiff's property for an unspecified duration, but did not include an exchange of property. The existence of reasonable reliance and detriment depends upon the facts of each particular case. Where, as here, an uncertain oral agreement involves real property, the party asserting equitable estoppel must demonstrate that he or she exercised due diligence prior to acting so that his or her reliance can be considered reasonable under the circumstances. Without any evidence that he exercised due diligence, the defendant in this case simply failed to demonstrate that his reliance was reasonable. Nor did he demonstrate that his expenditure in constructing the fence amounted to a substantial detriment. Under these circumstances, it cannot be concluded that the Superior Court erred in declining to invoke equitable estoppel. The judgment issued on May 4, 2015 ordering the defendant to remove his encroaching fence and dismissing his counterclaim alleging breach of contract, is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion