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Deceit - The Lie of the Law




4.1 The action in deceit is remarkable in that its viability does not depend on an otherwise subsisting or pending legal relationship, unlike for example a claim in contract or negligence. Furthermore, the claim for deceit may be made as between parties to a contract allegedly induced by the fraudulent misrepresentation or as between a contracting party and a third party or as between parties neither of whom are parties to a contract. In fact, in the 200 years since the decision in Pasley v. Freeman,1 which confirmed the availablity of the cause of action to non-contracting parties, almost 30 per cent of claims for deceit have been made between parties who have not contracted with each other on the faith of the misrepresentation,2 although a small proportion were cases where the alleged fraud was perpetrated in the course of one party’s performance of an already existing contract.3 The circumstances surrounding the allegations and findings of fraud are extremely wide, extending to the domestic, commercial, spiritual4 and public5 spheres of life. The examples are various.6

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