Could a Breach of Contract Claim Evolve into or Include a Fraud Claim?
Yes, a breach of contract claim can evolve into a fraud claim. During the course of discovery—as one receives documents, takes depositions, and interviews people—a Plaintiff may realize that this is not just a breach of contract claim, that the breacher is actually a fraudster who never had the ability or intention of performing what the contract obligated them to do.
If a Fraud Is Found to Have Occurred Within a Contract, What Civil Remedies Could Be Ordered?
The amount of damages that may be recovered would typically be the same as in a breach of contract claim. The court is looking to put the victim in the position that she would have been in but for the fraud.
However, in some fraud cases, one may recover punitive damages. This would require proof by clear and convincing evidence that the fraudster was guilty of either intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Intentional misconduct in a civil case generally means having the intent to steal. It is proof of conduct performed with knowledge it is wrong and likely to harm the victim. Gross negligence is conduct so outrageous that it appalls ordinary people. An example of gross negligence is somebody lighting a cigar at a gas station where gas is leaking onto the pavement because of a hose that’s been left on. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer who has done something so egregious that society wants to set an example by punishing them and deterring others from engaging in that kind of gross misconduct.
If Fraud Is Found but There Has Been No Monetary Loss, Would the Court Still Order Civil Penalties?
No. In order to prove fraud, there must be damages suffered as a result of the fraud.
If There Are Criminal Charges Potentially Involved in the Fraud, Will That Impact a Civil Case?
Yes, it may. If, for example, the other party has been convicted of theft or some other crime related to the civil misconduct alleged, that conviction may be used as evidence of liability in the civil case.
Do These Types of Cases Often End Up Going to Civil Trial?
Probably 10% of these cases end up going to trial. Most cases settle before trial. By the time discovery has been completed, both sides have a pretty good understanding as to what the facts are that are going to be disclosed at a trial. This understanding allows the lawyers to assess the likely outcome before a jury. Most people then decide to settle the case to avoid the expense and delay, as well as the risk, of going to trial.
What Sets You and Your Firm Apart in Handling Breach of Contract and Civil Fraud Cases?
I have been a civil litigator since 1982. I’ve handled hundreds, if not thousands, of these types of cases. I’m very familiar with the law and with many of the judges in Broward County, as well as some in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. After trying so many of these cases before juries, I’m familiar with what facts will support a verdict or a good settlement, and I know how to prosecute these cases while trying to maximize recovery for my clients.
For more information on Fraud and Breach of Contract Law in Florida, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (954) 900-9575 today.