Suing an Oregon Attorney for Fraud

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Oregonians may sue their attorneys for fraud just the same as we can sue others for fraud.

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Hire a lawyer. This article is no substitute, and everyone’s situation differs.

What do I have to prove to win a fraud lawsuit against my Oregon attorney?

One must prove the following five things to win a fraud lawsuit:

  1. The attorney represented something as true that was false and “material,” which means something that would affect the decision or conduct of a reasonable person – not something trivial.
  2. Attorney knew it was false at the time.
  3.  Attorney wanted client to rely on the false statement.
  4.  The client justifiably relied on the false statement.
  5. Client suffered a loss or harm because he or she relied on the misrepresentation.

I discuss some of these below.

Note that to win a fraud case, the burden of proof is higher than other for civil cases.  For most civil lawsuits the burden is “preponderance of the evidence,” which is just over 50% – the slightest tip in the scales of justice.  For fraud, one must prove all elements by “clear and convincing evidence.”

Other claims against attorneys have lower burdens of proof, including “negligent misrepresentation” and violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

Words versus Silence: What is a representation or misrepresentation?

Attorneys get in trouble not only for what they say but what they don’t say. Attorneys owe clients a fiduciary duty. We cannot be sneaky with half-truths. Even when lawyers say something we believe is true today, if we learn it is not true tomorrow, or next month, lawyers need to correct it.

Reliance on the false representation.

Clients must prove they relied on a false statement and they had a “right to rely” on it.

The right to rely is a question for a judge. Was it reasonable for you to rely on the representation?  For example, was the statement an obvious joke?  Was the attorney’s statement an opinion and not a statement of fact?

Whether the client actually relied on the misrepresentation is a question of fact for the jury.  Sometimes, if the misrepresentation is so miniscule compared to other issues, jurors will conclude the person did not actually rely on it when deciding whether to do something.

Damages.

Civil lawsuits award money. To win, the client must prove that the fraud caused harm to the client. As with all cases, the client must decide whether the amount lost is worth the cost, risk, and emotional investment of a lawsuit.

When a lawsuit does not make sense, sometimes, clients decide to seek justice other ways, such as filing a complaint with the Oregon State Bar alleging unethical conduct by the attorney.

Finding a lawyer to sue a lawyer.

Every claim has strict time limitations. If a claim is not made on time, it is lost forever. I represent Oregonians who have valid and substantial claims against their Oregon lawyers for fraud. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your case.

Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney

©2018 by Merrick Law, LLC and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.

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