What are the elements of fraud?

Many people feel they have been defrauded in a business or consumer transaction. 

Fraud has a very specific meaning under the law however.  To bring an action for fraud in Florida, a victim must be able to prove the following elements.

 First, the victim must prove that the defendant intentionally made a misrepresentation of material fact to the victim.  A misrepresentation is a false statement, in other words, a lie.  Note that the misrepresentation must be material.  This means that the misrepresentation must affect something important to the transaction, not a trivial or minor point.

Mere statements of opinion do not normally qualify as misrepresentations.  Likewise, a mere promise to do something in the future does not qualify as a misrepresentation, unless the victim can prove that, at the time the defendant made the promise, he or she had no intention to follow through on that promise.

Also, the law recognizes that telling half the truth can be the same as a telling a lie.  This is called an omission.  If a defendant conceals important information from the victim, for example, this can be the same as making a material misrepresentation to the victim.

Second, the victim must prove that the defendant intended that the victim would rely upon the false statement of material fact or omission.

Third, the victim must show that he or she reasonably relied on the misrepresentation.  Note that the victim’s reliance must be reasonable.   A victim cannot may not rely on a false statement if he or she knew the statement was false or if its falsity was obvious to the victim.

Finally, the victim must show that, as a result of his or her reliance on the misrepresentation or omission, the victim was actually damaged and suffered a harm.  As a general rule, fraud that does not result in damage is not actionable.

Please Note:  McCabe Rabin, P.A. provides these FAQ’s for informational purposes only, and you should not interpret this information as legal advice.  If you want advice as to how the law might apply to the specific facts and circumstances of your case, please click here to contact one of our attorneys.

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