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Courts have observed that 'in proper cases an estoppel predicated upon grounds of silence or fraud may override the statute of frauds.' Callaham v. Arenson, 239 N.C. 619, 626, 80 S.E.2d 619, 625 (1954) (citations omitted). Judicial estoppel 'protect[s] the integrity of the judicial process by prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions according to the exigencies of the moment.' New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749-50, 121 S.Ct. 1808, 1814, 149 L.Ed.2d 968, 977 (2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The North Carolina statute of frauds does not contain an exception to the signature requirement for agreements reached in court. However, equitable doctrines such as estoppel 'serve[ ] to moderate the unjust results that would follow from the unbending application of common law rules and statutes.' Brooks v. Hackney, 329 N.C. 166, 173, 404 S.E.2d 854, 859 (1991).

 

Broadly speaking, judicial estoppel prevents a party from acting in a way that is inconsistent with its earlier position before the court. Whitacre P'ship v. Biosignia, Inc., 358 N.C. 1, 28-29, 591 S.E.2d 870, 888-89 (2004). This equitable doctrine, which may be invoked in a court's discretion, id., is 'inherently flexible' and requires ...

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