In a previous blog, I discussed the case of Raysoni v. Payless Auto Deals, LLC et al. (see “To Carfax or not to Carfax“), a rather frustrating case in which the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff did not have a good claim for fraud against a used car dealership even though the salesman for the dealership told Raysoni that the car he purchased was not in a wreck – which was a blatant lie and the salesman knew it.
In that case, the Court of Appeals held that despite the salesman’s lie, a claim for fraud could not be supported because Raysoni’s reliance on the lie was not justified.
In a claim for fraud, the plaintiff must show that his/her reliance on a false and injurious representation was reasonable or justifiable. The Court of Appeals found that after verbal negotiations between Raysoni and the salesman, Raysoni signed a written contract which clearly stated that the car had been in a wreck, that a buyer was not to rely on the representations of a salesperson, and that a buyer should get the car independently inspected. The contract trumped the salesman’s representations as well as the Carfax report which showed the car as being clean.
Apparently, Raysoni did not take this decision lying down, as he is now appealing to the Supreme Court of Georgia. Oral Arguments are set for June 16, 2014.
In his appellate brief, Raysoni argued that the Court of Appeals incorrectly applied the law, based on the Georgia Supreme Court case City Dodge, Inc. v. Gardner (1974), arguing that fraud prior to the entering of the contract voids the contract, and thus the disclaimer in the contract is of no significance. Under City Dodge, the disclaimer in a contract is only one of the factors a jury will look at in deciding whether reliance was justifiable, but does not by itself preclude a finding of fraud. Raysoni also reiterated the fact that the disclaimer was in a font size the equivalent of 5.6 Arial type (!!) buried in other text. See if you can find the disclaimer of damage:
It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court deals with the issue of justifiable reliance. Stay tuned for the conclusion of this case… and feel free to call a contract attorney at Briskin, Cross & Sanford if you ever have ANY doubt about what you are being asked to sign.