The sole issue on this appeal is whether the facts found by the trial judge support the conclusion of law that defendant Robert L. Stainback was estopped from pleading the statute of limitations against Duke in this action. We hold that the conclusion of law was properly supported and, therefore, affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.
Robert L. Stainback, Jr., a nine-year-old boy, was admitted to Duke Hospital on 21 May 1977 for treatment of injuries sustained in a collision between the bicycle he was riding and an automobile. His father, defendant Robert L. Stainback, was legally responsible for his son’s medical expenses, and he also signed a written agreement accepting personal responsibility for these costs. The medical expenses totalled $42,812.90. After crediting $2,000 paid by an insurance company and $8,584.95 paid by Stain-back, there remained a balance of $32,227.95 which has not been paid.
Stainback was also insured by Investors Consolidated Insurance Company (Investors), but it denied coverage of Stain-back’s claim. Stainback, represented by attorney Bobby W. Rogers, instituted suit against Investors and judgment for $39,606.90 was entered in favor of Stainback on 13 May 1982. Although Duke had been notified of the suit between Stainback and Investors, it neither joined nor intervened in the case. This judgment was satisfied by check payable to Stainback and Rogers, as his attorney.
*339Thereafter, on 18 November 1983, Duke instituted this action against Stainback. Defendant answered, pleading the applicable statute of limitations. The case was heard by the judge without a jury, and judgment was entered with findings of fact and conclusions of law, awarding Duke $32,227.95.
The trial judge made the following pertinent findings of fact:
10. Investors received some bills from Duke for Duke’s treatment of Stainback, Jr. which bills indicated that “benefits” had been assigned. The last such bill was submitted by Duke to Investors on October 20, 1977.
12. Stainback’s attorney, Bobby W. Rogers, told Duke in the summer of 1978 that he was attempting to get Investors to pay the balance of the bill and would keep Duke informed of the situation.
13. On August 2, 1978, Stainback filed suit against Investors in Vance County Superior Court (Stainback vs. INVESTORS, Vance County File No. 78 CVS 222) seeking to recover under the Investors policy the medical expenses incurred for treatment of Stainback, Jr. at the Duke University Medical Center.
15. On August 11, 1978, Duke (Mrs. Miriam Lamb, Compensation and Liability Officer for the Private Diagnostic Clinic (PDC) of the Duke University Medical Center) wrote to Mr. Rogers requesting information as to the “status” of Stainback’s outstanding bill to the Duke PDC. This letter also notified Stainback of his outstanding bill to Duke Hospital.
17. On August 15, 1978, Mr. Rogers wrote to Duke (Mrs. Lamb) informing it that suit had been filed against Investors.
18. Duke was therefore aware of Stainback’s lawsuit against Investors, however, it made no effort to join or intervene in the Stainback vs. Investors case.
*34020. Stainback’s lawsuit against Investors came on for trial on December 7, 1981. Just prior to trial Stainback’s attorney Mr. Rogers spoke with Duke (a Mrs. Dunn of Duke Hospital) and was informed of the outstanding balance on Duke’s bill and provided copies of the unpaid bills. Mrs. Dunn was made aware that the case was about to be tried and volunteered to come to Henderson to testify concerning the amounts of these bills and to identify these bills if necessary. Once again, Duke made no effort to intervene or otherwise join in Stainback’s action against Investors to protect its (Duke’s) interests.
23. Subsequent to the ruling of the North Carolina Court of Appeals (on October 26, 1983) a Duke representative spoke by telephone with Mr. Bobby Rogers who refused to pay the Duke bill as it has been rendered.
24. Duke was made aware of the Judgment obtained by Stainback only because of a telephone call from Investors attorney, David Neal.
The trial judge made the following relevant conclusion of law:
3. With regard to Duke’s claim against Stainback, however, Duke was justifiably induced by representations and conduct of Stainback and particularly his attorney Bobby Rogers to refrain from bringing suit against Stainback to collect the bill for his son’s treatment at Duke and to believe that it would be paid out of the proceeds of any recovery in the Stainback vs. Investors Vance County action and Stain-back is therefore estopped to plead the statute of limitations against Duke in this action.
At the outset we note that the dissent to the majority opinion of the Court of Appeals does not raise an issue of whether the findings of fact are supported by the evidence. We only have before us the issue of whether the findings of fact support the conclusion of law that defendant is estopped to plead the defense of the statute of limitations.
The doctrine of equitable estoppel is based on an application of the golden rule to the everyday affairs of men. It requires that one should do unto others as, in equity and good conscience, he would have them do unto him, if their positions were reversed. ... Its compulsion is one of fair play.
McNeely v. Walters, 211 N.C. 112, 113, 189 S.E. 114, 115 (1937) (citations omitted). Actual fraud, bad faith, or an intent to mislead or deceive is not essential to invoke the equitable .doctrine of estoppel. Watkins v. Motor Lines, 279 N.C. 132, 181 S.E. 2d 588 (1971). It is not necessary that there be misrepresentations of existing facts, as in fraud. If the debtor makes representations which mislead the creditor, who acts upon them in good faith, to the extent that he fails to commence his action in time, estoppel may arise. Id. The tolling of the statute may arise from the honest but entirely erroneous expression of opinion as to some significant legal fact. Equity will deny the right to assert the defense of the statute of limitations when delay has been induced by acts, representations, or conduct, the repudiation of which would amount to a breach of good faith. Nowell v. Tea Co., 250 N.C. 575, 108 S.E. 2d 889.
Applying these principles to this appeal, we hold that the facts found are sufficient to support the conclusion that Stainback is estopped to plead the statute of limitations as a defense. The factual findings indicate a course of conduct by Stainback, through his attorney, which misled Duke. The actions and statements of Stainback’s attorney caused Duke to reasonably believe that it would receive its payment for services rendered once the case between Stainback and Investors was concluded, and such belief reasonably caused Duke to foregoing pursuing its legal remedy against Stainback. The actions and statements of Stain-back lulled Duke into a false sense of security. Defendant has breached the golden rule and fair play, justifying the entry of equity to prevent injustice. McNeely v. Walters, 211 N.C. 112, 189 S.E. 114.
*342The decision of the Court of Appeals is