Charlottesville Fraud & Misrepresentation Attorneys
Fraudulent and deceptive practices can greatly harm the business interests of individuals, professionals, or corporations. Actionable fraud, however, in a legal sense, describes a very technical and specific type of conduct.
Fraud is not simply an act of dishonesty, a broken promise, or a breach of contract. The law looks harshly upon fraud, classifying it as a tort for which both compensatory and punitive damages are available. As such, a successful fraud claim requires a plaintiff to meet, by clear and convincing evidence, the following specific elements:
- A false representation;
- Of a present, material fact;
- Made with the intent of inducing reliance;
- With the Plaintiff’s reasonable reliance; and
Each element has its own particularities. But the essence of a fraud claim is that someone intentionally misrepresented the truth to you and, when you reasonably relied upon the misrepresentation, you were harmed. Certain types of fraud can occur even if the intention is not knowing – if a person mistakenly misrepresents a fact, a separate claim of negligent misrepresentation or constructive fraud may have occurred. Actionable fraud, however, requires that someone intentionally misrepresents the truth in order to induce you to rely on the statement to your detriment.
Further, there is much discussion as to what constitutes a present, material fact. Certain statements may simply be seen as a statement of opinion, puffing, or a promise of a future event. While the classic example of a used car salesman telling you a car is “in excellent condition” is viewed as typical “puffing” language, there are other illustrations which toe the line between fact and opinion. To determine whether this element of fraud is satisfied, the court may consider other factors such as the relationship of the parties or their history of business dealings.
Even where it is clear that someone intentionally lied to you or purposefully misrepresented the truth, but you did not rely upon the statement or were not harmed by the statement, there is no fraud. Another wrong may have been committed for which there is a separate remedy, but a fraud claim will not be successful. Additionally, the law requires that you act reasonably and prudently when relying on someone’s statement or representation. If you fail to exercise ordinary care for your well-being, the law may not afford you any relief through a fraud claim.
Fraud may occur in various business settings, some of which are:
- fraud and misrepresentation in the purchase, sale, or merger of a business;
- theft and embezzlement;
- breach of fiduciary duty and self-dealing by officers and directors, managers, and majority owners;
- fraudulent transfers of corporate or debtor assets;
- consumer fraud and unfair trade practices;
- theft of company trade secrets or other intellectual property by employees or others;
- lender liability; and
- unfair competition.
A legal claim of fraud has strict pleading requirements. If those requirements are not followed, the fraud claim may be in jeopardy. Contact the Charlottesville Business Fraud Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. if you have been the victim of fraud. Call us at (434)817-3100, and ask for John B. Simpson or Robert E. Byrne, Jr. to allow us to discuss your case and evaluate your remedies. We have the experience and legal skills needed to help you fully recover.