Fraudulent concealment is a legal term that refers to the act of purposely hiding or suppressing an important fact with the intention of misleading or deceiving another party. This can happen in various scenarios, including but not limited to business transactions, real estate dealings, contracts, and employment.
The party concealing the fact is often in a position of knowledge or power. They have a duty to disclose the information, but instead, they choose to hide it. On the other hand, the victim is generally unaware of the fact and makes a decision that they might not have made had they known the truth. Fraudulent concealment can lead to legal consequences, including lawsuits for damages.
Here are a few examples of fraudulent concealment.
Fraudulent Concealment in Employment
Fraudulent concealment in employment can occur when an employer intentionally conceals certain facts about a job role to a prospective employee. For instance, an employer might hide information about job conditions, potential hazards, expected overtime, or the company’s financial health. If an employee takes the job based on this incomplete or misleading information, it could be considered fraudulent concealment.
Fraudulent Concealment in Real Estate
A common example is when a seller intentionally fails to disclose known defects or problems with a property to a buyer. These could include structural issues, pest infestations, or a history of flooding. The seller has a duty to disclose these facts, and the buyer relies on the seller’s disclosures when deciding to purchase.
Fraudulent Concealment in Business Transactions
In business transactions, one party might intentionally hide material facts about a deal, contract, or the financial health of a business. For example, if a business is selling and the owner knows about significant debts or legal issues but doesn’t disclose them to the buyer, this could be seen as fraudulent concealment.
These examples illustrate how fraudulent concealment can occur in different contexts. In each case, the party engaging in fraudulent concealment can face serious legal consequences if discovered.
What Are Some Defenses for Fraudulent Concealment?
Defending against a claim of fraudulent concealment requires careful legal strategy and a deep understanding of the facts and circumstances of the case.
Here are a few potential defenses that might be used:
- Lack of Knowledge: One defense could be that the party accused of fraudulent concealment did not know about the fact they are accused of hiding. If it can be proven that the defendant was not aware of the concealed fact, this may be a valid defense.
- No Duty to Disclose: Another defense could be that the defendant had no legal obligation or duty to disclose the particular information in question. In some instances, whether a duty to disclose exists depends on the relationship between the parties, the type of transaction, and applicable law.
- No Reliance on the Concealed Fact: If the plaintiff cannot prove they relied on the concealed information in making their decision, then it may serve as a defense. For example, say the plaintiff had independent knowledge of the concealed fact or if the plaintiff would have proceeded with the transaction even if they knew the truth. In that case, it might be argued that there was no detrimental reliance.
- The Concealed Fact is not Material: The defendant might argue that the fact they’re accused of concealing is not material, meaning it would not have significantly influenced the decision of the reasonable person. If it can be demonstrated that the concealed fact is irrelevant or insignificant, this defense may be viable.
- Statute of Limitations: In some cases, the defendant can argue that the statute of limitations has expired. Most jurisdictions impose a time limit during which a lawsuit for fraudulent concealment can be filed. If the plaintiff files the suit after this period, the defendant can use the expired statute of limitations as a defense.
- No Causal Connection: If the defendant can demonstrate that the alleged fraudulent concealment did not cause any harm or damages to the plaintiff, it may serve as a defense. They need to show that even if the information had been disclosed, it would not have made a difference in the plaintiff’s decision or outcome.
These defenses are not exhaustive, and the appropriateness of any particular defense will depend on the specific circumstances and facts of each case. Consulting with an experienced attorney is critical when facing a fraudulent concealment cause of action.
What if the Defendant Has Lied About a Certain Fact?
If the defendant has lied about a certain fact, or made misrepresentations, this can have serious consequences both in civil and criminal law, depending on the nature and context of the lie.
In the context of a civil lawsuit, such as a fraudulent concealment action, making false representations could lead to a judgment against the defendant. This might include compensatory damages to make up for the plaintiff’s financial losses resulting from the fraud. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded if the defendant’s conduct is found to be particularly egregious. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.
While many instances of fraudulent concealment may result in civil liability, some cases could also involve criminal sentences, particularly where the misrepresentation or lying is part of a larger fraudulent scheme. Criminal fraud can encompass a range of activities, including securities fraud, tax fraud, mail or wire fraud, and more.
The consequences of a criminal fraud conviction can be severe. Depending on the specifics of the case and the jurisdiction, it could result in imprisonment, significant fines, restitution (repayment to the victims), probation, community service, and a permanent criminal record.
However, whether a lie or misrepresentation rises to the level of a criminal act depends on a number of factors, including the defendant’s intent, the materiality of the lie, and the laws of the specific jurisdiction.
While many cases of fraudulent concealment may involve civil liability, not all will involve criminal liability. The decision to bring criminal charges usually rests with the government, not the victim. Because of this, it requires a higher burden of proof (“beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases versus “a preponderance of the evidence” in civil cases).
As always, the potential legal consequences of any specific action will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, and legal counsel should be sought for advice.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Fraudulent Concealment Case?
Yes, if you believe you’ve been a victim of fraudulent concealment or you are being accused of fraudulent concealment, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal help.
A qualified civil lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, gather necessary evidence, negotiate with the other party, and represent you in court if necessary. They can also ensure you understand the possible consequences, including any potential damages or penalties.
LegalMatch is a helpful service that can connect you with a lawyer who handles fraudulent concealment cases. By using LegalMatch, you can find an experienced attorney who can provide the right legal guidance based on your specific circumstances. You can fill out a case intake form on the LegalMatch website, and we will match you with a lawyer who is qualified to assist you.
Don’t face this challenging situation alone; get the legal help you need today with LegalMatch.