Thursday, October 07, 2010

equity - unclean hands

Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling Services v. DPW - Cmwlth. Court - October 7, 2010

Claim of payment for a counseling services denied because petitioner had unclean hands, involving fraudlent claims for services.

It is well settled that “[a] court may deprive a party of equitable relief where, to the detriment of the other party, the party applying for such relief is guilty of bad conduct relating to the matter at issue. The doctrine of unclean hands[7] requires that one seeking equity act fairly and without fraud or deceit as to the controversy in issue….” Terraciano v. Department of Transportation, 562 Pa. 60, 69, 753 A.2d 233, 237-238 (2000) (citations omitted).

As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted:

[T]he doctrine of unclean hands is far more than a mere banality. It is a self-imposed ordinance that closes the doors of a court of equity to one tainted with inequitableness or bad faith relative to the matter in which he seeks relief, however improper may have been the behavior of the defendant. That doctrine is rooted in the historical concept of court of equity as a vehicle for affirmatively enforcing the requirements of conscience and good faith…. Thus while ‘equity does not demand that its suitors shall have led blameless lives’ … as to other matters, it does require that they shall have acted fairly and without fraud or deceit as to the controversy in issue….Shapiro v. Shapiro, 415 Pa. 503, 506-507, 204 A.2d 266, 268 (1964) quoting Precision Instrument Mfg. Co. v. Automotive Maintenance Machinery Co., 324 U.S. 806, 814-15 [(1945)]. Jacobs v. Halloran, 551 Pa. 350, 359-360, 710 A.2d 1098, 1103 (1998).