Affirmative misrepresentations are actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

Affirmative misrepresentations are actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. See, Cox v. Sears, 92 N.J. Super 1, (1994). In order for an affirmative misrepresentation to be actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Act, it must be 1) material to the transaction; 2) fact; and 3) false. See Gennari v. Weichert Realtors, 148 N.J. 582, 607 (1993); Vaccarello v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Ins. Co., 2000 W.L. 76404 (App. Div. 2000); Ji v. Palmer, 33 N.J. Super. 451 (App. Div 2000)
A statement is material if: a) a reasonable person would attach importance to its existence in determining a choice of action; b) the maker of the representation knows or has reason to know that if its recipient regards or is likely to regard the matter as important in determining his choice of action although a reasonable man would not so regard it. See Ji v. Palmer, supra.

In Ji, the Appellate Division held that the trial court improperly dismissed the plaintiff’s Complaint at the end of the plaintiff’s case. The Appellate Division held that the plaintiff properly set forth a prima facie case and, as such, the trial court was mistaken and the case should be reinstated. In Ji, the plaintiff purchased commercial real estate and alleged that the defendant made an affirmative misrepresentation at closing that the Certificate of Occupancy satisfied the City’s requirement that a Certificate of Land Use be obtained upon transfer of title. The trial court, improperly, dismissed the plaintiff’s case because the plaintiff could not show that the misstatement was made knowingly. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the plaintiffs were not required to show the defendant’s knowledge of the falsity of his statement or an intent to deceive. The plaintiff sufficiently proved that the defendant made a material misrepresentation of fact, which was false. The Court held: The Consumer Fraud Act is intended to protect consumers from deception and fraud, even when committed in good faith. An intent to deceive is not a prerequisite for the imposition of liability.
The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish by clear and convincing evidence each of the following elements. First, that defendant made a false representation of fact to him/her. Second, that defendant knew or believed it to be false. Third, that defendant intended to deceive plaintiff. Fourth, that plaintiff believed and justifiably relied upon the statement and was induced by it to (action taken or omitted). Fifth, that as a result of plaintiff’s reliance upon the statement, he/she sustained damage. Model Civil Jury Instructions 3.19

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