Monday, March 17, 2008

consumer - fraud - parol evidence - pleading

Jeffries v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co. - ED Pa. - February, 2008

Defendant's motion for summary judgment was denied on virtually all of plaintiff's claims in this "predatory lending lawsuit," because in each instance, there was found to be a genuine issue of material fact. Plaintiff's claims included negligence, fraud, TILA, HOEPA, RESPA, Pa. Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, and UTPCPL.

The opinion discusses both a) the problems raised by the Toy case, 928 A.2d 186 (Pa. 2007) concerning parol evidence, and b) the pleading requirements under the state CPL, 73 P.S. 201-1 et seq.

fraud, parol evidence, and Toy
The court held that under Toy, plaintiff would have to prove that she had justifiably relied on defendant's representations. "Jefferies argues that she alleges fraud in the execution, meaning that evidence of the oral statements can be properly introduced to show justifiable reliance." Fraud in the execution "is at issue where 'a party alleges that he was mistaken as to the terms and the actual contents of the agreement he executed due to the other’s fraud.' Toy, 928 A.2d at 205. For fraud in the inducement, 'a party alleges that he was induced into entering the agreement through the other’s fraud.' Id." The defendant did not address the issue and thus did not meet its burden of showing there was no genuine issue of material fact.

The court noted that '[u]nder the fraud exception to the parol evidence rule, 'parol evidence may be introduced to vary a writing meant to be the parties’ entire contract[] when a party avers that the contract is ambiguous or that a term was omitted from the contract because of fraud, accident or mistake.' Toy, 928 A.2d at 204. The [Pennsylvania Supreme Court] has only applied this exception to allegations of fraud in the execution, not to allegations of fraud in the inducement. Id. at 204-05. Thus, 'when fraud in the execution is alleged, representations made prior to contract formation are not considered superseded and disclaimed by a fully integrated written agreement, as they are when fraud in the inducement is asserted.' ” Id. at 206-07.

UPTCPL - justifiable reliance
Toy et al. hold that a plaintiff alleging violations of the CPL "must prove justifiable reliance, which is an element of common law fraud....Thus, to avoid summary judgment, [plaintiff] must be able to show that there is a genuine issue as to whether she justifiabily relied on the oral statements. In n. 33, the court reviews the issue of fraudulent v. deceptive and the amendment to the CPL, ending with the holding in Toy.