Deceitful or fraudulent representations are actionable under Florida law, and plaintiffs that rely on false statements to their detriment have every right to pursue damages against those that misrepresent a material fact. In some cases, lying parties may be prosecuted for fraud. But you also have a right to pursue your claim in civil court to recover damages. There are two types of misrepresentation, intentional and negligent misrepresentation. If you or a family member have suffered damages due to misrepresentation, contact Bryan W. Crews today for an evaluation of your claim.
Prima facie is a Latin term used in the law and it means “on its face” or “at first sight.” To establish a prima facie case of intentional misrepresentation, the plaintiff must show that the defendant (1) made a misrepresentation, (2) scienter, meaning the defendant knew the statement was, (3) an intent to induce reliance on the misrepresentation, (4) plaintiff’s reliance on the false statement was the cause of the harm, (5) the plaintiff’s reliance was justified, meaning the statement was not obviously false, and (6) the plaintiff suffered damages.
Generally, the misrepresentation must be of a material past or present fact. In a typical misrepresentation case, reliance on a misrepresentation of opinion will not satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of establishing a prima facie case. A part from certain transactions, such as real estate, there is no general duty to disclose a material fact. Withholding material facts is not actionable unless by statute or some other legal requirement the defendant was required to make disclosures. Fiduciary relationships and real estate transactions are examples where defendants may be required to make certain disclosures. Actively concealing material facts is also actionable. While there may not be a duty to disclose generally, making certain facts undiscoverable may constitute active concealment.
Scienter is another Latin term often used in the law to connote intent or knowledge of wrongdoing. For example, in the sale of a business, if the owner of a company misrepresents last year’s profits as being $50,000 greater than actual profits, scienter is present. However, the same is true if the owner of the company makes this same statement without even reviewing his financial records. Representing profits and losses without even reviewing financial regards would constitute reckless disregard as to truth or falsity.
The next element is fairly straightforward. The plaintiff must show that the defendant intended to induce reliance. In the previous example, if the owner of a company represents profits and losses in hopes of a selling a business, that representation is designed to induce the buyer to act or refrain. It is not a benign statement.
Without causation, the plaintiff has no case. If the misrepresentation of fact does not cause the plaintiff’s injury, then there is no prima facie case. The plaintiff must show actual reliance on the statement.
Justifiable reliance is perhaps the most interesting element of establishing a prima facie cause of intentional misrepresentation. In short, this means that plaintiff’s cannot bring a claim for false statements that a reasonable person would recognize as obviously false. Outlandish or bizarre representations made by the owner of a business cannot justifiably be relied upon. The same is true when the plaintiff investigates a misrepresentation and learns it is false. There is no duty imposed on plaintiffs to investigate. But, once a plaintiff investigates and learns the representation is false, he cannot then claim that he was justified in relying on the misrepresentation.
Lastly, the plaintiff must show actual pecuniary loss. It is not enough to prove that the defendant misrepresented a material fact, reliance, and causation. Courts will not police misrepresentations a part from actual economic loss.
The prima facie elements for negligent misrepresentation claims are different, but the main difference is that the defendant breached a duty toward a particular plaintiff. Analyzing negligent misrepresentations does not require a finding that the defendant intentionally misled the plaintiff. Once a duty of care is established, then the plaintiff may argue that this duty was breached when the defendant failed to accurately represent a product of service. This claim is most often seem in commercial settings.
If you have been deceived or misled due to the intentional or negligent misrepresentations of another, call Bryan W. Crews today, your Orlando personal injury attorney.