Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tort of "Negligent Words"

            In Ripp v. Lavore (BASC 434-13, NYLJ 1202646720701, at 1, District Court, Suffolk, decided February 28, 2014), the facts are as follows: plaintiff and defendant entered into a written contract to make repairs on plaintiff's boat - those repairs included removing and replacing two rotted stringers; at some point during the work's progress, defendant advised plaintiff that it was not necessary to replace the full stringers because the fore and aft sections were "rock solid"; upon completion of this revised work plan, however, by early July 2011, the boat began to leak on the port side; as a result of the foregoing, plaintiff filed a small claims complaint against the defendant alleging breach of a contract to repair plaintiff's boat.

            After the conclusion of a trial de novo for said matter, the Court ruled in favor of plaintiff's breach of contract claim - citing contract law (particularly, that the oral modification to the written contract was unenforceable), and the tort of "negligent words" as plaintiff relied on defendant's representations to his detriment.

            With respect to the tort law, the Court stated the following: "Liability in [negligent words] cases arises only where there is a duty, if one speaks at all, to give the correct information.  And that involves many considerations.  There must be knowledge or its equivalent that the information is desired for a serious purpose; that he to whom it is given intends to rely and act upon it; that if false or erroneous he will because of it be injured in person or property.  Finally the relationship of the parties, arising out of contract or otherwise, must be such that in morals and good conscience the one has the right to rely upon the other for information, and the other giving the information owes a duty to give it with care" [quoting International Products Co. v. Erie R. Co., 244 N.Y. 331, 338 (1927)]."

Salvatore R. Marino, Esq.

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