To understand constructive fraud, it is necessary to understand actual fraud.
Essentially, fraud occurs when one person intentionally deceives another to gain money or other benefits.
In civil law, fraud can also arise when a person lies or misrepresents a material fact with the intention of misleading another person, causing them harm.
Constructive fraud, on the other hand, is deemed as deceptive behavior under the law that violates public interest. In most cases, it is addressed in legal proceedings. This type of fraud can occur even without the intention to deceive another. However, one party must gain an advantage over the other.
Violations of financial obligations, public and private partnerships, and the use of excessive leverage are examples of actions that could give rise to constructive deception.
A judge considers whether the parties have a unique connection founded on faith or confidence in the other party. If the conventional components of fraud are not fulfilled because the purpose cannot be proven, the existence of a unique connection will aid in establishing constructive fraud. The other elements that must be present include the perpetrator of constructive deception taking advantage of the unique connection and the other party being injured in some way.
What Are Some of the Legal Implications?
Some instances of constructive fraud include product manufacturers not disclosing product defects, companies purchasing a product for far less than its fair market value, and stockbrokers continuing to trade stocks even though they should have ceased.
The penalties for constructive fraud are generally the same as those for actual fraud. In a legal case, this usually involves paying monetary penalties as a consequence of the fraudulent behavior.
If property was improperly transferred as a result of intentional deception, the offender might be ordered to restore it or pay the worth if it is no longer physically accessible.
What Are Some Common Examples of Constructive Fraud?
Constructive fraud can take many forms, but the following are some common examples:
- Breach of fiduciary duty: If someone in a position of trust, such as an executor of an estate, breaches their fiduciary duty by using their position for personal gain, it may be considered constructive fraud.
- Concealment of material facts: If someone fails to disclose material facts that they have a duty to disclose, it may be considered constructive fraud. For example, a seller who fails to disclose defects in a product they are selling could be liable for constructive fraud.
- Unconscionable contract: If a contract is so one-sided or oppressive that it is considered immoral or unethical, it may be considered constructive fraud. For example, if a lender deliberately hides unfavorable loan terms from a borrower, it may be considered constructive fraud.
- Misrepresentation: If someone makes a false statement or conceals material facts to deceive another person, it may be considered constructive fraud. For example, if a real estate agent misrepresents the condition of a property to a buyer, it may be considered constructive fraud.
- Breach of contract: If someone breaches a contract with the intent of gaining an advantage over the other party, it may be considered constructive fraud. For example, if a contractor breaches a construction contract intending to use the materials and labor for another project, it may be considered constructive fraud.
What Is a Fiduciary Duty, and How Do I Know if I Have One?
A fiduciary duty is a legal obligation that requires an individual to act in the best interest of another party, usually a client or beneficiary. Fiduciary duties can arise in business relationships, legal representation, and financial planning.
In general, a fiduciary duty requires the individual to:
- Act in good faith and with honesty and loyalty;
- Avoid conflicts of interest;
- Disclose all material facts;
- Act with the utmost care, skill, and diligence.
Examples of relationships that may involve a fiduciary duty include:
- Trustee and beneficiary;
- Attorney and client;
- Financial advisor and client;
- Corporate director and shareholders.
If you are unsure whether you have a fiduciary duty in a particular situation, consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law. They can review the circumstances and advise you on your legal obligations.
What if I Didn’t Know I Was Committing Fraud?
If you did not know that you were committing fraud, it’s possible that you could still be held liable for your actions.
Constructive fraud can happen even without the intention to deceive another. However, one party must gain an advantage over the other.
In some cases, you may be able to argue that you did not know that your actions were fraudulent or that you did not understand the consequences of your actions. An experienced fraud lawyer can examine the evidence and advise you on the best course of action if this is the case.
What Are the Defenses to Constructive Fraud?
There are several defenses that can be raised in response to a claim of constructive fraud.
Here are some of the most common defenses:
- Lack of intent: If you did not intend to deceive the other party, you might be able to argue that constructive fraud did not occur. This defense is particularly relevant in cases where the fraud was unintentional, such as in cases of negligent misrepresentation.
- Lack of a special relationship: Constructive fraud often requires a special relationship between the parties, such as a fiduciary duty. If there was no special relationship between you and the other party, you might be able to argue that constructive fraud did not occur.
- No harm suffered: For constructive fraud to exist, the other party must have suffered some harm due to your actions. If there was no harm suffered, you might be able to argue that constructive fraud did not occur.
- Statute of limitations: Each state has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time in which a legal action can be filed. If the statute of limitations has expired, you may be able to argue that the claim is time-barred and should be dismissed.
Each case is unique, and the available defenses will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. An experienced fraud lawyer can evaluate your case and advise you on the best defense strategy to pursue.
How Can a Lawyer Help in Constructive Fraud Cases?
If you are suspected of constructive fraud, seek the representation of a local fraud lawyer. A lawyer can examine the case and determine whether any remedies exist to resolve the litigation.
If you are involved in a constructive fraud case, LegalMatch can help you find a local fraud lawyer who can examine your case and determine the available remedies. A lawyer can represent you in court and increase your chances of a favorable result and a reasonable judgment for damages.
LegalMatch’s online lawyer matching service is a fast and easy way to connect with experienced fraud lawyers. Simply fill out the online form, and LegalMatch will match you with lawyers in your area who have the experience and knowledge to handle your case.
LegalMatch can help you find the right legal representation, whether you are the accused or the victim. Use LegalMatch to find a lawyer today.