Some court decisions provide little instruction for future disputes. Other court decisions give you a great road map for analyzing your claims. Every now and then you find a decision where the court is split and you wonder which side is right, such as the opinion in Davis v. McGuigan (pdf), issued by the Supreme Court Tennessee on October 26, 2010.
A husband and wife alleged that the appraiser, who was hired by the bank financing the husband and wife’s home construction, recklessly overestimated the value of their proposed construction and that they reasonably relied on the appraisal value to their detriment. The intermediary appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, holding that an appraisal is an "opinion" that cannot form the basis for a fraudulent misrepresentation claim.
In the (3-2) opinion by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the majority held that an "opinion" can form the basis of a fraudulent misrepresentation claim. The majority also concluded that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment as to the husband and wife’s claims against the appraiser. The dissent reached a different conclusion as to the facts of the case: "Even though an opinion can provide the basis for a fraudulent misrepresentation claim, the undisputed facts in this record, and the inferences reasonably drawn from these facts, support only the following conclusions."
The opinion in Davis is 32 pages with both the majority and dissent opinions. The majority opinion provides a good road map for what elements are required to prove an intentional misrepresentation claim, including an analysis of each element and the applicable factual allegations. The dissent opinion provides a good road map of proof required to establish summary judgment and to shift the burden of production to the non-moving party.
If you are a legal practitioner, the Davis decision is worthy of a read (although it may take you some time to fully digest the two opinions). If you are an owner, developer, seller or appraiser, be warned that opinions may be used to establish an intentional misrepresentation claim.