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Justifiable Reliance Materiality in Tort Law

Justifiable Reliance Materiality

Justifiable reliance represents the core to any charge of misrepresentation and nondisclosure, as it represents the specific standard to which a representative relationship can be ascertained to the point of legal responsibility. Justifiable reliance, simply put, indicates the extent to which one can be held to have relied on the representations of another.

In tortious claims, it refers to the extent than one can hold another party liable for their misrepresentations. As an example, if one purchases a product that guarantees that it will wash your car, the buyer is entitled to certain level of justifiable reliance on the belief that it will do as advertised.

If the product actually removes the paint from your car, then the level of justifiable reliance will guarantee a high level of liability on the makers of the product, who misrepresented its effects to the degree that the buyer sustained a significant loss (the damage done to car).

For justifiable reliance to pertain directly to liability, it must be said to have an acceptable level of materiality. Materiality means that the product or service’s selling point must have a precise bearing on the nature of what is represented and the part that it plays in determining its ability to be purchased.

It does not necessarily have to represent something solid, but an action or an effect. Materiality could also be extended to services enacted by an individual: say you actually paid someone to actually wash your car. The actually washing of the car still represents the materiality, whether it is a person or product that does it.

Generally a key part of determining justifiable reliance on a product or service is the effect its materiality holds for other similar minded people. Car washing is a material promise because it is something that could be expected by everyone, as help as condition of purchase by any two, like-minded individuals.

If however, one person felt that in order for someone to be paid to wash his or her car, that person had to be blond, that would be specific to them, and would not constitute a form of justifiable reliance. Simply put, it would be immaterial.

So, justifiable reliance, and its basis on materiality, forms a key part when determining whether misrepresentation or nondisclosure has occurred. If the product guarantees a material promise, then an individual is entitled to expect that the product will fulfill that promise, in the form of justifiable reliance.

If the product does not fulfill that obligation, either because the seller or creator misrepresented its ability, or failed to disclose an element that would prevent it from fulfilling that promise then they have not adhered to the promise of justifiable reliance. Under tort law, if that failure of justifiable reliance on the part of the seller has led to a loss on the part of the buyer, then they are able to hold the seller responsible for that loss (even if that loss represents something as small as a refund on the purchase).

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