Can I File a Civil Suit Against Someone Who Defrauded Me?

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When someone you or your property, you may have a legal case against him. If you feel like you were tricked or deceived into giving someone money, you may have a cause of action for fraud. To succeed in a lawsuit, you must prove the elements of fraud.


Fraud can occur in several ways. In general, as a plaintiff in a lawsuit, you (or your attorney) must prove that certain things happened that meet the legal definition of fraud. Fraud requires four things: a false statement represented as true, made by a person who knows the statement is false; the person must intend the statement to induce you into some action and that action must cause legal damages. For example, if a salesman sold you a product that he knew would not perform as he advertised, you may be able to sue him if you believed his false statements, and if those statements caused you to purchase the faulty product.

Civil Procedure

Courts require the parties involved to follow certain rules of procedure. The rules vary slightly by state. In general, civil procedure rules require you to give adequate notice to the plaintiff with regard to the cause of action you are suing under. Most causes require general notice; fraud cases require you to specifically point out the statements made that induced you to act. For example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state that "a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." In your complaint, you cannot simply allege that a defendant defrauded you without pointing to specific statements and facts.

Filing a Lawsuit

Aside from the specificity issue in the complaint, filing a lawsuit for fraud is similar to filing other civil actions. You need to know how much you are suing for; depending on the amount you may be able to file in small claims court, which tends to offer faster resolutions and slightly relaxed civil procedure rules.

Other Issues

Before you file a lawsuit, you must consider certain factors, including whether the defendant is even collectible. That generally means that you know where the defendant is, and you have reason to know he can pay you if you succeed. Additionally, you must follow the relevant rules and be able to build a case for fraud in order to succeed. Because this involves legal principles and procedure, you should seek an attorney’s help before proceeding on your own.


About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.