Claims of business fraud must be supported by a great deal of specificity. Proving such claims requires Chicago business fraud lawyers to demonstrate fraudulent intent. Doing so requires exceptional knowledge of business practices and the instincts that a Chicago business fraud lawyer can develop only with years of practice. The Clinton Law Firm has the experience and knowledge to provide exemplary service to small business clients in this uniquely challenging area of litigation.We Offer More Than 50 Years of Experience to Chicago Business Owners
Businesses that are involved in intractable business disputes, have been defrauded or are facing allegations of fraud can count on the Clinton Law Firm to zealously defend their interests. To schedule a consultation and discuss your case with a knowledgeable Chicago business law attorney, call us at (312) 357-1515 or contact us online today.How Allegations of Fraud Can Affect a Business
When businesses are accused of fraud, there are consequences that extend far beyond the legal ramifications. The mere allegations of this type of conduct can have a huge impact on the reputation and goodwill of any business. The Clinton Law Firm aggressively defends our clients who face allegations of fraud because we understand that simply forcing a settlement or even a favorable judgment is not enough.What Makes Fraud Claims Different
Unlike many other types of legal claims that business lawyers in Chicago handle, claims of fraud require specific intent on the part of the accused. That is, Chicago business fraud attorneys must prove both that an individual or business performed a certain act and that it did so with the intent to defraud.
Fraud attorneys in Chicago are rarely lucky enough to uncover a document that specifically states the fraudulent intent. Instead, a Chicago business fraud attorney must demonstrate this intent by combing the relevant records to find instances of conduct that reveal the motivations of the involved parties. This is uniquely challenging and far beyond what a Chicago breach of contract attorney typically faces. The law treats allegations of fraud very seriously, demanding specific proof because these accusations can be so damaging.Elements of Fraud
To prove the existence of fraud before an Illinois court, a business fraud attorney must present evidence of the following:
- the individual or business made false statements of material fact;
- the individual or business knew the statements were false, believed the statements to be false, or made the statements in reckless disregard of whether or not the statements were false;
- the statements were made with the intent to induce the complaining party to act;
- the complaining party reasonably believed the statements and acted in justifiable reliance on the truth of the statements; and
- the complaining party sustained damages as a result of the reliance.
A fact is only “material” if it relates to an essential element to the transaction, and had the complaining party been aware of the truth, he or she would have acted differently.Affirmative Statement vs. Omission
Fraud cases are not always the result of an overt false statement. In Illinois, the intentional omission of a material fact is treated as the equivalent of a false statement of material fact. If an individual or business is shown to have concealed a material fact, and the concealment was done with the intent to mislead, the individual or business will be liable under the claim of fraudulent concealment.
The mere silence of an individual or business, however, is not enough to show intentional omission. The complaining party must also show there was a duty to speak, or some deceptive conduct or suppression of material fact.Duty to Speak or Disclose
The duty to speak or disclose can result from various situations. Often, the duty arises when some type of fiduciary relationship between the parties is formed. A fiduciary relationship is formed when an agency relationship is established, such as with an attorney, accountant, or real estate broker.
An individual or business might also have a duty to speak or disclose under a particular statute. In Abazari v. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that a medical school had a duty to disclose certain information in their recruitment materials because Title 23 of the Illinois Administrative Code required post-graduate institutions to accurately describe material facts concerning the institution and the program. In upholding the duty to disclose, the Appellate Court writes that,
Abazari v. Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science, 2015 IL App (2d) 140952
The defendants’ voluntary decision to bring up postgraduate opportunities in their recruitment materials suggests that they themselves viewed such opportunities as material to prospective students’ decisions about whether to enroll in the program. Accordingly, we believe that the plaintiff could adequately allege that the defendants’ statutory duty included the obligation to disclose the fact that successful completion of their DPM program did not ensure placement in the necessary postgraduate residency.
On the other hand, a salesman in an arms-length transaction typically will not have a duty to disclose. In Connick v. Suzuki Motor Co., purchasers of the Suzuki Samurai brought a class action lawsuit against Suzuki alleging in part that Suzuki committed fraud by failing to disclose its knowledge of the Suzuki Samurai’s safety risks. In upholding the trial court’s dismissal of the fraudulent concealment claim, the Illinois Supreme Court states,
Connick v. Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd., 174 Ill.2d 482, 500, 675 N.E.2d 584, 593 (1997)
Regarding the relationship between plaintiffs and Suzuki, the complaint merely alleged that plaintiffs had purchased a Samurai from an authorized Suzuki dealer, and that Suzuki manufactured and distributed the Samurai. Nowhere in the complaint did plaintiffs sufficiently allege that they were in a confidential or fiduciary relationship with Suzuki or that Suzuki was in a position of superiority over them. Without such allegations, plaintiffs' complaint did not allege a duty to disclose material facts which could give rise to a claim for common law fraudulent concealment.
The Clinton Law Firm has the experience and knowledge to provide exemplary legal services to those who have been defrauded and those facing allegations of fraud. Call us at (312) 357-1515 or contact us online today.