In the course of business, it is expected that business owners or representatives will try and market their goods and services in a way that causes others to enter into contracts or purchase those goods and services. When this happens through legitimate competitive offers, there is usually no problem with the tactics used, even if there was aggressive marketing used. However, in some cases the methods used to attract clients and business partners can lead to a lawsuit for misrepresentation.
There are two broad categories of misrepresentation in the business context in Florida: negligent misrepresentation and intentional misrepresentation. In order to succeed on a negligent misrepresentation claim, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant misrepresented a material fact;
- The defendants should have known the representation was false;
- The defendants intended to induce the plaintiff to act on the misrepresentation; and
- The plaintiff acted in justifiable reliance on the misrepresentation causing injury (usually financial loss.)
Intentional misrepresentation is sometimes referred to as fraud. To make a case for intentional misrepresentation, the plaintiff has to show that:
- The defendant made a false statement concerning a material fact;
- The defendant knew that the statement he was making was false;
- The defendant made the statement with the intention that the representation induce another (the plaintiff) to act on it; and,
- The plaintiff suffered an injury after acting in reliance on the representation.
As can be seen when looking at the elements, these two causes of action are similar with the exception of the intent of the person who is making the misrepresentation. In order to make sure that you are filing the right claim and will be able to provide evidence on each element, consultation with an experienced attorney is key. When a plaintiff fails to make the right allegations to support his claim, the case can get dismissed before it really starts.
Whether the false statement was regarding a material fact is a question that is decided by the trier of fact, that is, the judge or jury. Opinions are not considered material facts for the purpose of proving misrepresentation. However, in some cases, if a person has some specialized knowledge in a subject, a representation he makes may be viewed as fact and not merely opinion.
Clients or consumers can also sue a business for misrepresentation if the information the business provided in order to get the consumer to make a purchase turned out to be false or misleading. The failure to investigate the truth of a misrepresented statement does not affect a claimant’s case or ability to sue in every case. The circumstances surrounding the misrepresentation are very important and there are various factual questions that the court has to iron out before the case is over.
Contact an Experienced Business Attorney
If you have suffered losses because another person or business interfered with your business by misrepresenting information in order to negatively affect your business, you may have a claim against the person or business. For more information, contact an experienced business attorney at Vocelle & Berg, LLP, in Vero Beach, Florida for a free consultation.