Green v. Higgins

217 Kan. 217, 535 P.2d 446 (1975)



The clean hands doctrine is based upon the maxim of equity that he who comes into equity must come with clean hands. The clean hands doctrine in substance provides that no person can obtain affirmative relief in equity with respect to a transaction in which he is, himself, guilty of inequitable conduct. Conduct that will amount to unclean hands is conduct which the court regards as inequitable. The clean hands maxim is not a binding rule, but is to be applied in the sound discretion of the court. The application of the clean hands doctrine is subject to certain limitations. Conduct which will render a party's hands unclean so as to deny him access to a court of equity must be willful conduct which is fraudulent, illegal or unconscionable. The objectionable misconduct must bear an immediate relation to the subject-matter of the suit and in some measure affect the equitable relations subsisting between the parties to the litigation and arising out of the transaction. The misconduct which may justify a denial of equitable relief must be related misconduct rather than collateral misconduct arising outside the specific transaction which is the subject-matter of the litigation before the court.


The parties entered into a real estate sales contract that they post-dated in order to avoid payment of a commission to a sales agent with whom the sellers had a contract. The sellers also prepared a fictitious sales contract, which they presented to certain third parties, who had rights of first refusal on any offer to purchase the disputed property. The fictitious sales contract recited a purchase price in excess of the value of the property and the third parties declined to make the purchase. The sellers later decided not to complete the transaction. On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. The district court, in its discretion, properly dismissed the action under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-256 (1973 Supp.) because the parties had a reasonable opportunity to present evidentiary material and no genuine issues of fact remained.


Is Greens’ contention that the motion to dismiss filed by the defendants was prematurely sustained because there were genuine issues of fact remaining in the case valid?




K. S. A. 1973 Supp. 60-212 (b)  provides that if on a motion asserting a defense of failure of the pleading to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, matters outside the pleading are presented to the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and shall be disposed of as provided in section 60-256, provided all parties are given a reasonable opportunity to present evidentiary material  pertaining thereto. In this case the plaintiffs had previously filed a motion for summary judgment based upon the undisputed facts contained in the pleadings and depositions of the parties. Here there is no complaint that the trial court did not afford to the parties every reasonable opportunity to make discovery and to obtain evidence in support of and in opposition to their respective motions. Under the provisions of K. S. A. 60-256 the trial court is authorized to render summary judgment when there is no material issue of fact. Such judgment may in fact be entered on the court's own motion.

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