Fraud is defined as illegally obtaining a benefit (e.g., money) from someone using a form of deception. From a legal standpoint, there are different "types" of misrepresentation, with overlapping elements, and the party alleging that someone has misrepresented a material fact has the burden of proof.
Florida recognizes two separate theories of recovery for damage occurring as a result of misrepresentation. One basis of recovery is for intentional misrepresentation (technically, fraud is intentional) and the other is for negligent misrepresentation. In other words, under Florida law, a party may be liable for misrepresenting a material fact even if the misrepresentation was a mistake, instead of intentional. Florida also seems to recognize a legal theory for "false information negligently supplied for the guidance of others," although it is unclear whether it is a claim that is truly separate and distinct from negligent misrepresentation.
The issues to be considered by a judge or jury on a plaintiff's claim for intentional misrepresentation (fraud) are:
- whether the defendant intentionally made a false statement concerning a material fact;
- whether the defendant knew the statement was false when made or made the statement knowing he did not know whether it was true or false;
- whether the defendant intended that another would rely on the false statement; and
- whether the plaintiff relied on the false statement.
Notably, on this claim for fraudulent/intentional misrepresentation, the plaintiff may rely on a false statement, even though its falsity could have been discovered if the plaintiff had made an investigation. However, the plaintiff may not rely on a false statement if he knew it was false or its falsity was obvious to him.
The issues to be considered by a judge or jury on a plaintiff's claim for negligent misrepresentation are:
- whether the defendant made a statement concerning a material fact that he believed to be true but which was in fact false;
- whether the defendant was negligent in making the statement because he should have known the statement was false;
- whether in making the statement, the defendant intended or expected that another would rely on the statement; and
- whether the plaintiff justifiably relied on the false statement.
The issues to be considered by a judge or jury on a plaintiff's claim for "false information negligently supplied for the guidance of others" are:
- whether the defendant supplied false information to the plaintiff in the course of the defendant's business, profession, or employment, or in any transaction in which the defendant had an economic interest;
- whether the defendant was negligent in obtaining or communicating the false information;
- whether the plaintiff was a person for whose benefit and guidance the defendant intended to supply the false information for use in the plaintiff's business transaction;
- whether the defendant intended the false information to influence the plaintiff in this business transaction; and
- whether the plaintiff justifiably relied on the false information.
Finally, it should be noted that a misrepresentation need not be based an affirmative statement. The omission of a material fact which should have been disclosed may also constitute misrepresentation.
Joel Ewusiak frequently represents parties in lawsuits and arbitration proceedings that involve allegations of misrepresentation. Please contact Joel via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (727.286.3559) for legal assistance with your particular matter.