The Attorney’s Liability for Misrepresentations and “Lies” (Part 1)
An old joke about attorneys asks, “How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?” The answer: His lips are moving.
Obviously, lawyers don’t always lie. In fact, most of the time they tell the truth–the code of ethics and the professional requirements of holding a Bar license require both honesty and zealous representation of a client’s interests. Sometimes, it may seem an attorney is “lying” when in reality he or she is simply representing the client’s interests by explaining the facts–legitimate facts–in the light most favorable to his or her client.
However, lying is not an appropriate part of legal representation, and the law holds attorneys liable for professional negligence (malpractice) in cases where the attorney makes deliberately misleading statements.
ATTORNEYS MAY BE HELD LEGALLY LIABLE FOR MISREPRESENTING MATERIAL FACTS.
While “zealous representation” and “vigorous argument” are legitimate parts of legal representation, lawyers are not legally permitted to intentionally or fraudulently misrepresent material facts to clients or to non-clients. If an attorney does intentionally misrepresent material facts in the course of representation, the person to whom the statement(s) were made may be able to bring a malpractice claim against the responsible attorney.
However, in order to prevail on a claim for malpractice based on an attorney’s misrepresentations, the person bringing the claim must prove (to a legally acceptable standard):
1 . The statement was both material and false.
2 . The attorney made the statement intending to induce the claimant’s reliance on the falsehood.
3 . The claimant’s reliance on the attorney’s misrepresentation was reasonable, given the facts and circumstances of the case (as well as the statement).
Attorneys will not generally be held liable for misrepresentations or false statements that no reasonable person would have relied upon (or should have relied upon) as true, or for statements that were never intended to be relied upon in the first place.
Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an article like this one to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Legal claims against lawyers or other third parties are a complicated topic. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who failed to provide you with competent representation, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.