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15 January, 2016 - 09:32

A material misrepresentation is one that “would be likely to induce a reasonable person to manifest his assent” or that “the maker knows…would be likely to induce the recipient to do so.” 1 An honestly mistaken statement that the house for sale was built in 1922 rather than 1923 would not be the basis for avoiding the contract because it is not material unless the seller knew that the buyer had sentimental or other reasons for purchasing a house built in 1922.

We did not mention materiality as an element of fraud; if the misrepresentation is fraudulent, the victim can avoid the contract, no matter the significance of the misrepresentation. So although materiality is not technically required for fraudulent misrepresentation, it is usually a crucial factor in determining whether the plaintiff did rely. Obviously, the more immaterial the false assertion, the less likely it is that the victim relied on it to his detriment. This is especially the case when the defendant knows that he does not have the basis that he states for an assertion but believes that the particular point is unimportant and therefore immaterial. And of course it is usually not worth the plaintiff’s while to sue over an immaterial fraudulent misrepresentation. Consequently, for practical purposes, materiality is an important consideration in most cases. Reed v. King (Misrepresentation by Concealment ) discusses materiality (as well as nondisclosure).