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Fraud and Misrepresentation: Facts and Opinions

In most claims for fraud — whether it be intentional misrepresentation or negligent misrepresentation — a party claiming the fraud must prove that the other party intentionally or unintentionally provided false, factual information that was material. Statements of opinions are usually not actionable for fraud. When the car salesmen tells you that a particular vehicle is the “best car in the world,” that would be considered an opinion or “sales puffery” and therefore could not form the basis for fraud.

As a further example, the Missouri Supreme Court has found that a seller in a real estate transaction’s statement that the property is “in good condition” was insufficient for fraud purposes because it was an opinion. The court reasoned that expressions of opinion are insufficient to authorize a recovery for fraudulent misrepresentation because such expressions are considered immaterial to a transaction. Clark v. Olson, 726 S.W.2d 718, 720 (Mo. 1987). If in Clark the seller had made a specific factual misrepresentation — e.g., that the roof was replaced last year when in reality it was 40 years old — then that would likely be sufficient to prevail on the fraud claim (assuming the other elements were present).

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