Redevelopment litigation lawyers at Mark Anchor Albert and Associates are proficient in defending against and prosecuting intentional misrepresentation claims.
Although quite rare, a contractor is liable for fraud in the construction of improvements when he or she intentionally fails to build improvements according to the contract requirements. (Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate 2d at § 25.6 (1990) (citing Balfour, Guthrie & Co. v. Hansen (1964) 38 Cal. Rptr. 525). Design professionals likewise can be held liable for fraud on the same basis. (Ibid.)
In California, “fraud” and “deceit” are defined in California Civil Code sections 1572, 1709, and 1710. Civil Code section 1709 defines “deceit” generally as, “One who willfully deceives another with intent to induce him to alter his position to his injury or risk, is liable for any damage which he thereby suffers.” Civil Code section 1710 specifies four kinds of deceit:
“A deceit, within the meaning of [section 1709], is either:
- The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true [intentional misrepresentation of fact];
- The assertion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who has no reasonable ground for believing it to be true [negligent misrepresentation of fact];
- The suppression of a fact, by one who is bound to disclose it, or who gives information of other facts which are likely to mislead for want of communication of that fact [concealment or suppression of fact]; or,
- A promise, made without any intention of performing it [promissory fraud].”
Subsection 2 of section 1710 covers negligent misrepresentations, whereas subsections 1, 3 and 4 cover intentional misrepresentations.
The tort of deceit or fraud requires: “(a) misrepresentation (false representation, concealment, or nondisclosure); (b) knowledge of falsity (or ‘scienter’); (c) intent to defraud, i.e., to induce reliance; (d) justifiable reliance; and (e) resulting damage.” (Engalla v. Permanente Medical Group, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 951, 974; see also Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass’n (1988) 46 Cal.3d 1092, 1108. Sometimes the tort of fraud or deceit is stated with four elements instead of five: (1) a knowingly false representation by the defendant; (2) an intent to deceive or induce reliance; (3) justifiable reliance by the plaintiff; and (4) resulting damages. See Service by Medallion, Inc. v. Clorox Co., (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1807, 1816.
The representation made by the contractor, architect, engineer, supplier, or other construction-related individual must ordinarily be an affirmation of fact, as opposed to an opinion. Under the Restatement Second of Torts section 538A, a representation is an opinion “if it expresses only (a) the belief of the maker, without certainty, as to the existence of a fact; or (b) his judgment as to quality, value, authenticity, or other matters of judgment.” Mere “puffing,” or sales talk, is generally considered opinion, unless it involves a representation of product safety. Hauter v. Zogarts (1975) 14 Cal.3d 104, 112.
“A misrepresentation need not be oral; it may be implied by conduct.” Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1559, 1567. Moreover, false representations made recklessly and without regard for their truth in order to induce action by another are the equivalent of misrepresentations knowingly and intentionally uttered. Yellow Creek Logging Corp. v. Dare (1963) 216 Cal.App.2d 50, 55.
“A ‘complete causal relationship’ between the fraud or deceit and the plaintiff’s damages is required. ... Causation requires proof that the defendant’s conduct was a “‘substantial factor’” in bringing about the harm to the plaintiff.” Williams v. Wraxall (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 120, 132.