Fraud

Fraud

In general, commercial fraud requires a statement of material fact, known to be false when made (or made with reckless disregard of whether true or false), justifiably relied on, causing damages to the person that relied on it. In many cases, fraud is used to escape from a written agreement such as a lease, so the remedy is to escape the consequences of the agreement rather than to collect money damages. In some cases, omitting to tell something is also actionable, or the volume of opinions and their falseness is grounds to conclude that there was a scheme to defraud.

In the context of commercial landlords and tenants, a landlord who wants to evict a tenant before the lease is up might charge the tenant with fraud, alleging that if the tenant had not told them fact X, they would not have signed the lease. Additionally, a tenant who was lied to by a landlord might want to escape the lease before the conclusion of its term.

In these cases, the motivating factor can be different than what is alleged.  If rent prices in the area have increased, the landlord may be motivated to seek a way to evict a current tenant to obtain a higher paying tenant.  Similarly, if the rent costs have declined, the tenant may seek to get out of the higher paying lease.  The presence of heavy equipment, specialized design, or the commercial importance of the location provides the motivation for one party or the other to perceive that it has leverage enough to compel a modification, and the lawsuit is filed or threatened to start the conversation.

Fraud cases can be difficult to win.  There is a high burden of proof.  There is a tendency of the courts to revert to the written document rather than statements allegedly made before the document was prepared.  Nevertheless, awareness of what fraud is, how it can be alleged, and its potential uses offensively or defensively, remains important in these cases.

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