Equitable & Promissory Estoppel Do Not Apply to Public Entities Involved in Construction

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

Equitable estoppel applies when a defendant makes a misrepresentation of fact upon which plaintiff detrimentally relies. Promissory estoppel is a legal doctrine where a defendant makes a representation as to his intention to take certain future action upon which plaintiff detrimentally relies.

In the case of Hortman v. Miamisburg, 110 Ohio St.3d 194 (2006), the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the doctrines of equitable and promissory estoppel do not apply to the state or its political subdivisions when the governmental body is engaged in a governmental function like road building.

This case means that even if governmental entities make certain misrepresentations in connection with public works projects these "promises" may not be enforceable by contractors or other interested parties, particularly when they do not come in the context of an express written contract.