FRAUD counts allow punitive damages!!!

From Consumer Rights Defenders HelpDesk for the Public – January, 2015.

Fraud is generally an intentional tort for which you can ask the court for punitive damages. 

The elements are slightly different in various states. Here is California’s version:

Elements of fraud cause of action: A plaintiff seeking a remedy based upon fraud must allege and prove all of the following basic elements:

· Defendant’s false representation or concealment of a ‘material’ fact (see Rest.2dTorts | 538(2)(a); Engalla v. Permanente Med. Group, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 951, 977, 64 Cal.Rptr.2d 843, 859–misrepresentation deemed ‘material’ if ‘a reasonable (person) would attach importance to its existence or nonexistence in determining his choice of action in the transaction’);

· Defendant made the representation with knowledge of its falsity or without sufficient knowledge of the subject to warrant a representation;

· The representation was made with the intent to induce plaintiff (or a class to which plaintiff belonged) to act upon it (see Blickman Turkus, LP v. MF Downtown Sunnyvale, LLC (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 858, 869, 76 Cal.Rptr.3d 325, 333–fraud by false representations means intent to induce ‘reliance’; fraud by concealment involves intent to induce ‘conduct’);

· Plaintiff entered into the contract in ‘justifiable reliance’ upon the representation (see Ostayan v. Serrano Reconveyance Co. (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1411, 1419, 92Cal.Rptr.2d 577, 583–P’s admission of no reliance on a representation made by D precludes cause of action for intentional or negligent misrepresentation); and

· As a result of reliance upon the false representation, plaintiff has suffered damages. [Alliance Mortgage Co. v. Rothwell (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1226, 1239, 44 Cal.Rptr.2d 352, 359; see Manderville v. PCG & S Group, Inc. (2007) 146 Cal.App.4th 1486, 1498, 55Cal.Rptr.3d 59, 68; and Auerbach v. Great Western Bank (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 1172, 1184, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 718, 727–‘Deception without resulting loss is not actionable fraud’

Particularized pleading required especially against a business entity [corp., LLC, etc.] : A fraud cause of action must be pleaded with particularity; i.e., every element of the cause of action must be alleged factually and specifically in full. [Committee on Children’s Television, Inc. v. General Foods Corp. (1983) 35 Cal.3d 197, 216, 197 Cal.Rptr. 783, 795; see Stansfield v. Starkey (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 59, 73, 269 Cal.Rptr. 337, 345–complaint must plead facts showing ‘how, when, where, to whom, and by what means the representations were tendered’; Nagy v. Nagy (1989) 210 Cal.App.3d 1262, 1268-1269, 258 Cal.Rptr. 787, 790–fraud complaint deficient if it neither shows cause and effect relationship between alleged fraud and damages sought nor alleges definite amount of damages suffered]

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