Acquiescence is a legal term or doctrine that describes the situation in which a person knowingly stands by an infringement of their rights without raising an objection, allowing the other person to continue or proceed to act, under the impression that those rights will not be asserted, or that those rights belong to the infringed person. The legal consequence of acquiescence is that the person whose rights were infringed, but who did not object cannot then make a claim against the person who infringed said rights, nor succeed in an injunction to stop further infringement of the rights. Thus, that person is said to have tacitly accepted or agreed to the infringement of their rights.
The doctrine of acquiescence is not generally expressed in statute. It is a common-law principle that is found in the decisions of the courts on various matters.
The two main doctrines of acquiescence are estoppel by acquiescence, and acquiescence by silence. The common-law doctrine of estoppel by acquiescence is similar to estoppel by laches. It applies where one person gives legal notice of a fact or claim to another person, and that person fails to challenge that claim within a reasonable time. The second party is said to have acquiesced to the claim, and is estopped from later challenging it.
Acquiescence by silence occurs in the context of claims in tort, whereby a person’s silence, or failure to protest or take any action, in the face of a tortious act, has the consequence that they lose their rights to claim for any loss or damage.
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