Consumer Fraud Attorneys at Leist Warner in Columbus, Ohio
Fraud, as a legal concept, differs from simple lying in its intent and effect. Without going too deeply into the exact differences, a person or company commits fraud with the intention of taking more money or property than they should rightfully receive. Fraud can also be aimed at acquiring someone’s personal information and damaging another person’s reputation. Beyond intent, sustaining a charge of fraud requires showing that people believed fraudulent statements or representations to be true. Fraud, in other words, requires a liar and a victim.
People taken in by fraud can file criminal complaints and seek compensation through civil lawsuits. When enough individuals fall prey to the same fraud, the victims’ attorneys often seek certification of a class action. Doing that serves three purposes:
- Class action lawsuits allow every fraud victim to hold the person or company that defrauded them accountable without all of the victims having to go to court as individual plaintiffs.
- Class actions permit plaintiffs’ attorneys to share their expertise, evidence, and resources to best present their clients’ claims – there is strength in numbers.
- Awards or settlements from class actions get shared equitably among all members of the group of victims, meaning that people who suffered similar harms receive similar compensation.
One thing to notice about this summary of why class actions are beneficial is that it doubles as a justification for why such lawsuits are necessary: Fraudulent statements and actions rarely victimize just one person. When it does, the crime or violation is probably best prosecuted as theft. Businesses and people who sell goods or services by lying about them in one way or another tend to target as many victims as possible.
How Is Fraud Defined in Law?
Fraud, very much like lying, can take many forms. As this summary was being written, a group of people who paid premium prices to watch the May 2, 2015, championship boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have filed suit against Pacquiao for lying on a prefight injury report form. Because an undisclosed shoulder tear may have caused the boxer to underperform, viewers deemed the bout itself uninteresting. Many may have also lost money by betting in ways they would not have if they knew Pacquiao was hurt.
Sound frivolous? Not really, since the amount of money at stake from pay-per-view fees and false representation influencing betting lines reaches into the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. More typical fraud cases involve selling products or services, making false claims about what a product contains or can do, and overcharging for products or services.
Both the U.S. government and the state of Ohio have numerous laws designed to protect people against fraud. These cover advertising, the trading of stocks and commodities, the sale and renting of goods and property, and the provision of banking services. Regardless of the specific focus of a fraud statute, each relies on a shared definition of what constitutes fraud by a company or person doing business.
According to Chapter 18 §1001 of the U.S. Code, an individual or corporation commits fraud when it “knowingly and willfully”:
- Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
- Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
- Makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.
“Material” here means a piece of information that would influence a customer’s decision to purchase a product or service. Notice, too, how withholding essential information is prohibited. Ohio expands on these concepts by making deceptive business practices of all kinds subject to criminal and civil prosecution. Here are examples of the definitions in the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2913:
(A) “Deception” means knowingly deceiving another or causing another to be deceived by any false or misleading representation, by withholding information, by preventing another from acquiring information, or by any other conduct, act, or omission that creates, confirms, or perpetuates a false impression in another, including a false impression as to law, value, state of mind, or other objective or subjective fact. …
(E) “Services” include labor, personal services, professional services, rental services, public utility services including wireless service as defined in division (F)(1) of section 128.01 of the Revised Code, common carrier services, and food, drink, transportation, entertainment, and cable television services.
Contact a Columbus Class Action Lawsuit Attorney to Discuss Your Fraud Case
Do not accept falling victim to unscrupulous, unethical, dishonest, and fraudulent companies, contractors, or service provides. The class action attorneys at Leist Warner have many years of experience representing plaintiffs in fraud cases, and we are ready to answer any questions you may have about defective products, insufficient services, and lies by advertisers or salespeople that led you to suffer harm. Call us at (614) 222-1000 or use our contact form to let us know how we can help you.