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Unclean Hands Doctrine - Part I

The unclean hands doctrine, sometimes referred to as the clean hands doctrine, is a principle in which a party who acted unethically or in bad faith in his or her prior conduct with respect to the subject of the complaint is unable to obtain an equitable remedy by virtue of such conduct. A related maxim of jurisprudence is Civil Code section 3543 which states that, "where one of two innocent persons must suffer by the act of a third, he, by whose negligence it happened, must be the sufferer. This doctrine has been invoked in many instances but has rarely been applicable. However, in the instance of Andre Flowers v. Daryl Dancy, et al, the Court of Appeals has cited the unclean hands doctrine as the central theme of the legal action.

In Flowers v. Dancy, a real estate property owned by two deceased persons was posthumously transferred to Brazil McIntyre, by one of the deceased person's son, Joseph. The deed purporting to transfer the property was forged. Another son of the deceased person, Andre Flowers, tried to obtain control of the house by filing an improper mechanic's lien. Andre also rented the house to a couple and filed a quiet title action alleging that the deed to McIntyre was forged. However, Andre, his co-plaintiff – Henessy (another brother) and his attorney of record failed to appear at the hearing resulting to a dismissal of the case. McIntyre's attorney then advised her that she was the legal owner of the property. Relying on that advise, McIntyre transferred the property to Dancy without any consideration. Dancy paid the outstanding property taxes on the house and obtained a loan from Wachovia for $178,750; granting the bank a first-priority interest in the property.

After the loan was made, Andre sought to become the administrator of the estate. As the administrator, Andre filed the instant probate action, seeking quiet title and to obtain other relief against defendants McIntyre, Dancy and Wachovia. The trial court found Andre had "unclean hands" and was therefore prohibited from attacking the forged deed. His petition was denied. Andre appealed the trial court's ruling.

More on the Court of Appeal's ruling on subsequent blogs.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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