Law Offices of John Michael Jensen

Concealment — Civ. Code § 1710(3) – CACI 1901

We litigate cases involving concealment.

Concealment, in the context of California law, refers to the willful hiding or suppression of a material fact that one is obliged to disclose. This can occur in various contexts, such as in insurance, real estate transactions, or general contractual relationships. The act of concealment can lead to legal actions based on fraud or misrepresentation if it results in harm to another party. Here are the key elements typically required to establish a claim of concealment under California law:

  1. Concealment of a Material Fact: The defendant must have concealed or suppressed a material fact, which means a fact that would have been significant to the decision-making process of the plaintiff had they known about it.
  2. Duty to Disclose: The defendant must have been under a legal duty to disclose the fact to the plaintiff. This duty can arise from a direct relationship between the parties, such as a fiduciary relationship, or when one party has exclusive knowledge of material facts not known to the other party.
  3. Intention to Defraud: The defendant must have intentionally concealed the fact with the purpose of defrauding the plaintiff — that is, the concealment was done with the intent to deceive.
  4. Reliance by the Plaintiff: The plaintiff must have relied on the absence of the fact. In other words, the concealment must have been a substantial factor in their decision to enter into the contract or transaction.
  5. Resulting Damage: Finally, the plaintiff must have been harmed as a result of the concealment. This harm typically involves financial loss.

In a brief explanation, the law of concealment in California protects parties from being misled by the omission of important information that is necessary for a fair and informed decision in a contractual or fiduciary relationship. For instance, in real estate, sellers are under an obligation to disclose known defects to potential buyers. Failure to disclose such defects could be grounds for a concealment claim.

Remedies for concealment can include rescission of the contract (cancellation of the agreement) or monetary damages to compensate the aggrieved party. In the case of willful concealment with intent to defraud, punitive damages may also be pursued.

It’s important for parties in a transaction to understand that California law imposes a relatively high standard for disclosing material facts, especially in situations where one party has superior knowledge or a fiduciary responsibility. However, each case is highly fact-specific, and the interpretation of these elements can vary based on the circumstances and context in which the alleged concealment occurred. Legal advice should be sought in any particular case of concern for a precise application of the law.