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Using the Unclean Hands or Clean Hands Doctrine

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: October 26, 2017

In our How to Answer a Lawsuit article, we discussed how to answer the complaint or lawsuit that was presented to you. As part of your answer, a list of affirmative defenses should be included. One such affirmative defense is the unclean hands or clean hands doctrine.

What is the Clean Hands Doctrine?

The clean hands doctrine, also called unclean hands, is a defense to a claim for equitable relief, typically an injunction. The Defendant can argue that the Plaintiff has no grounds to obtain relief because he has acted unethically or in bad faith with respect to the subject of the complaint. The Defendant has the burden to prove that the Plaintiff is not acting in good faith, or that his hands are unclean.

Other Definitions of Unclean Hands

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Examples of the Clean Hand Doctrine

When to Use Unclean Hands

Only use unclean hands when you have evidence that the other side in your lawsuit has done something illegal or immoral during the course of suing you or defending against a lawsuit brought by you.

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