Businesses enter into contracts and agreements on a regular basis. During the negotiations that lead up to a contract or agreement, businesses frequently exchange information and make statements that are relied upon by other parties. If that information turns out to be less than accurate, or those statements outright false, it could be considered business fraud or misrepresentation. Our experienced business fraud attorneys have extensive experience in this area of the law and can help you if you believe you are the victim, or you have been accused, of business fraud or misrepresentation.
What Is Business Fraud?
The law sometimes defines “fraud” as illegally obtaining a benefit, such as money or property, from someone using a form of deception. Although there are an infinite number of ways in which a business could participate in fraud (mail fraud, securities fraud, insurance fraud), the term “business fraud” or “fraud in the inducement” often refers to conduct that included an alleged misrepresentation. Not all misrepresentations, however, can be used as the basis of a civil lawsuit based on fraud. Some are true mistakes that are not intended to be deceptive or are simply not material.
Fraudulent Misrepresentation in Florida
For a claim of business fraud or misrepresentation to be legally actionable, the injured party must prove four elements, including:
- The Defendant made a false statement concerning a material fact.
- The Defendant knew that the representation was false when it was made.
- The Defendant intended the representation to induce another to act on it.
- Plaintiff was injured as a result of acting in reliance on the representation. Butler v. Yusem, 44 So. 3d 102, 105 (Fla. 2010).
By way of illustration, imagine that Landlord ABC negotiated a ten-year commercial lease agreement with Tenant XYZ for space in a shopping center. During the negotiations, Landlord ABC assured Tenant XYZ that a new shopping center was being constructed on vacant land across the street from the property which would increase visibility and foot traffic for Tenant XYZ’s business. The shopping center deal fell through because there was a sinkhole beneath the surface making the land unsuitable for improvements. Landlord ABC knew the shopping center deal fell through prior to executing the lease with Tenant XYZ; however, did not divulge that information to Tenant XYZ. When Tenant XYZ decided to lease the space, the prospect of a large shopping mall across the street was a significant factor in that decision and Tenant XYZ alleges that it lost substantial income because it relied on the fraudulent representation made by Landlord ABC. In this scenario, all four elements of fraud in the inducement have likely been met.
Consult the Tampa Bay Business Attorneys at Lieser Skaff Alexander
If your business is involved in a business fraud and misrepresentation dispute, our experienced business attorneys can help by evaluating the facts and providing you with guidance regarding your legal options. If your business has been accused of fraud, our skilled litigators will aggressively defend your business throughout the litigation process.