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What Are the Elements of Attorney Fraud?

People often use the word “fraud” to describe a variety of actions, words, and activities that fall short of legally-recognized “fraud.” When considering a claim against a lawyer, a client (or former client) should be aware that “fraud” has a legal definition–and test–when applied to a lawyer’s conduct.

LAWYERS CAN BE SUED FOR FRAUD, IN PROPER CIRCUMSTANCES

The elements of a cause of action for fraud are:

1. A material misrepresentation of fact (which can also include misrepresentations of law that include–expressly or by implication–misrepresentations of fact)

2. The misrepresentation was made with knowledge of its falsehood.

3. The misrepresentation was made with intent to defraud.

4. The client justifiably relied on the misrepresentation.

5. The client suffered damage as a result.

(The law expressly prohibits lawyers from making knowingly false statements of material fact or law while representing clients.)

California law also recognizes certain other varieties of fraud, including “false promise,” fraudulent inducement to make a contract, fraudulent concealment (of material information), and negligent misrepresentation.

As the elements above reveal, fraud is a highly fact-specific cause of action. A plaintiff’s claim is heavily dependent upon the facts of the specific case at hand. If you believe a lawyer committed fraud against you–in the course of representation, to induce you to enter into an attorney-client relationship, or in any other manner–consult an experienced attorney promptly for an evaluation of your legal rights and potential claims.

BEWARE THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS (FOR FRAUD OR ANY OTHER CLAIM)

While many fraud cases fall within the three-year statute of limitations established in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 338(d), no plaintiff (or client) should ever attempt to evaluate the statute of limitations without the assistance of experienced legal counsel. In some cases, the statute of limitations is tolled, and does not run, until the plaintiff discovers (or, in some cases, “should have discovered”) the existence of the fraud. However, determining when a statute of limitations begins to run (or began to run) can be tricky and may require legal analysis.

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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 online article (including 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.

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