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March 08, 2023

Applying the Doctrine of Estoppel to a public entity

The Doctrine of Estoppel is sometime sought to be applied to a government entity in an effort to require or prevent the governmental entity from performing, or failing to perform, an alleged action or commitment that was relied upon by the complaining party.

In Taranto v City of Glen Cove, 212 AD3d 826, the Appellate Division addressed the application of the Doctrine of Estoppel in a challenge to an action taken by the City with respect health insurance benefits then enjoyed by certain of the City's employees.

The Appellate Division opined:

"A municipal resolution is, in general, a unilateral action that is temporary in nature and, thus, it does not create any vested contractual rights", citing Matter of Aeneas McDonald Police Benevolent Assn. v City of Geneva, 92 NY2d 326. The court concluded that a local government is "free to terminate retirement health insurance and other benefits they may have previously elected to provide [by resolution] to employees and other officials.

The court also noted that "[as] a general rule, estoppel may not be invoked against a governmental body with regard to the exercise of its governmental functions or its correction of an administrative error [citations omitted] and "[an] exception to the general rule applies only in the 'rarest of cases' [typically] involving the wrongful or negligent conduct of a governmental subdivision, or its misleading nonfeasance, which induces a party relying thereon to change his or her position to his or her detriment resulting in manifest injustice."

In this instance the Appellate Division concluded that Taranto failed to establish that his complaint fell within the narrow exception warranting estoppel to be applied against the City.

* The court cited:  Matter of Weaver v Town of N. Castle, 153 AD3d 531; Iasillo v Pilla, 120 AD3d 1192; Matter of Kapell v Incorporated Vil. of Greenport, 63 AD3d 940; and Matter of Handy v County of Schoharie, 244 AD2d 842.

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

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