Vokes v. Authur Murray, Inc.
- P was a 51 year old widow who wanted to be a dancer. She began taking lessons at D's dance studio.
- P was a terrible dancer, but D constantly told her that she was graceful and improving and that additional lessons would make her a beautiful dancer.
- D used fake designations like "Silver Standard" to entice P to buy more hours of instruction.
- P bought over 2300 hours of instruction for ~$32k.
- When P discovered that she was not actually improving and was still a terrible dancer, she sued D.
- Lower court found no cause of action, found for D.
- FL Court of Appeals reversed, found for P, cause of action valid.
- Under what circumstances do obviously untrue opinions and puffery as to value and ability become possible fraud, capable of creating a cause of action?
- When one party has superior knowledge, statements of opinion can be treated as misrepresented statements of fact and give the other party a cause of action.
- D went beyond unsavory, yet legal, "sales puffing" and used undue influence, suggestion of falsehood, and suppression of truth to swindle P.
- The representations made to P were false and known to be false by D and purposefully withheld from P with the sole and specific intent to deceive and defraud the P.
- "A statement of a party having superior knowledge may be regarded as a statement of fact although it would be considered as opinion if the parties were dealing on equal terms."
- In contractual situations where a party owes no duty to disclose facts, the law says that if he undertakes to do so, he must disclose the whole truth.
- Actions that are contrary to good faith should be sufficient to void a contract if there is surprise, mistake, want of freedom, undue influence, suggestion of falsehood, or suppression of the truth.