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Misstatement of Law

15 January, 2016 - 09:32

Incorrect assertions of law usually do not give rise to any relief, but sometimes they do. An assertion that “the city has repealed the sales tax” or that a court has cleared title to a parcel of land is a statement of fact; if such assertions are false, they are governed by the same rules that govern misrepresentations of fact generally. An assertion of the legal consequences of a given set of facts is generally an opinion on which the recipient relies at his or her peril, especially if both parties know or assume the same facts. Thus, if there is a lien on a house, the seller’s statement that “the courts will throw it out, you won’t be bothered by it” is an opinion. A statement that “you can build a five-unit apartment on this property” is not actionable because, at common law, people are supposed to know what the local and state laws are, and nobody should rely on a layperson’s statement about the law. However, if the statement of law is made by a lawyer or real estate broker, or some other person on whom a layperson may justifiably rely, then it may be taken as a fact and, if untrue, as the basis for a claim of misrepresentation. (Assertions about foreign laws are generally held to be statements of fact, not opinion.)