John and Louisa A. Hodel - Page 17

          respondent is equitably estopped from arguing that their refund             
          claim is time barred.                                                       
               The principle of equitable estoppel prohibits a party from             
          asserting a statute of limitations as a defense where that                  
          party's conduct has induced another to refrain from bringing suit           
          during the applicable limitations period.  The Supreme Court                
          addressed the issue of equitable estoppel in Heckler v. Community           
          Health Services, 467 U.S. 51, 59 (1984):                                    
                    Estoppel is an equitable doctrine to avoid                        
               injustice in particular cases.  While a hallmark of the                
               doctrine is its flexible application, * * *                            
          *  *  *  *  *  *  *                                                         
               the party claiming the estoppel must have relied on its                
               adversary's conduct "in such a manner as to change his                 
               position for the worse," and that reliance must have                   
               been reasonable in that the party claiming the estoppel                
               did not know nor should it have known that its                         
               adversary's conduct was misleading.  * * * [Fn. refs.                  
          Therefore, to succeed on a traditional estoppel grounds defense             
          the litigant must prove (1) a misrepresentation by another party            
          (2) which he reasonably relied upon (3) to his detriment.  United           
          States v. Asmar, 827 F.2d 907, 912 (3d Cir. 1987); Dade County v.           
          Rohr Indus., Inc., 826 F.2d 983 (11th Cir. 1987).                           
               Additional considerations arise when a party alleges                   
          estoppel against the Government, for "When the government is                
          unable to enforce the law because the conduct of its agents has             
          given arise to an estoppel, the interest of the citizenry as a              
          whole in obedience to the rule of law is undermined."  Heckler v.           

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