Fraud is a serious allegation. It is serious to prosecute. It is serious to defend. Illinois law (and Federal law for that matter) require stricter pleading to make out a case or the fraud count(s) will be dismissed. This stricter pleading is sometimes referred to as “heightened pleading” or “pleading with specificity”.
Illinois law is clear: “[t]o plead a legally sufficient common law fraud claim, a plaintiff must allege that:
(1) defendant made a statement;
(2) of a material nature;
(3) which was untrue; and
(4) was known by defendant to be untrue, or was made in culpable ignorance of its truth or falsity;
(5) was made for the purpose of inducing reliance by the plaintiff;
(6) was actually relied on by the plaintiff; and
(7) resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.”
Small v. Sussman, 306 Ill.App.3d 639, 646 (1st Dist. 1999) (emphasis added).
I like to explain to my clients the “important” element – damages. That is, just because someone “tricked” you or lied to you perhaps does not mean a Court or Jury will simply “give” you – or award you – money. The trickery / deceit must result in an injury a.k.a. “damages”. Illinois law is also even more clear on this particular point – “Damage is an essential element of fraud.” City of Chicago v. Michigan Beach Hous. Coop., 297 Ill. App. 3d 317 (1st Dist. 1998) (citing Gerrill, 128 Ill. 2d at 193; Shah v. Chicago Title & Trust Co., 119 Ill. App. 3d 658, 661 (1983)) (emphasis added).
Careful review of a complaint is necessary to defend a fraud claim – every word counts. On the flip side, careful investigation of a potential claim (the “who, what, where, when, why, how” questions) will aid in drafting a more thorough, “heightened pleading” to secure a fraud count. Nothing seems to be “bullet proof” however in either event as a Judge has discretion in reviewing each particular fact situation for – usually – an early determination on whether fraud can even be pursued in a matter. Fraud is not well taken in the Court system.
You can contact me here 24/7/365 (and I really mean that as I will answer my phone) if you have any questions and to learn how I may be able to help you or your company analyze a potential fraud situation and “map out” a strategy in relation to same or simply provide you a second opinion to help you fight every inch of the way from start to finish as business/commercial cases are battles unfortunately – in particular, you will find that I listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages–BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). I would be honored to help you with your matters – large or small.