The Law School Authority

Vokes v. Arthur Murray Inc Case Brief

Summary of Vokes v Arthur Murray Inc
Ct of App Fl 212 So 2d 906 [1968]

Avoidance of the K: Fraud

Relevant Facts: Pl, Vokes, 51 yof, wanted to become an accomplished dancer, and she sought the services of Df Murray and Davenport.  Murray authorizes franchise operators under its name to instruct client on dance techniques.  Initially, Df Davenport sold Pl 8 ½ hr lessons to be used w/i 1 month.  Over a period of 16 months she was sold 14 additional dance courses under separate Ks.   During that interim Df encouraged Pl to sign the subsequent Ks by assuring her that she had grace and poise; rapidly improving and developing her dance skill; she was capable of dancing w/ the most accomplished dancers.  Pl soon discovered that she did not develop in her dancing ability; she had no dance aptitude; and even had difficulty hearing the musical beat.

Legal Issue(s): Whether misrepresentations made by one party to induce the other party to enter into subsequent dance contracts are actionable when offered as an opinion rather than fact?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: D. Ct dismissed w/ prejudice Pl’s 4th Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim;   Ct of App Reversed

Law or Rule(s): A statement made by a party having superior knowledge may be regarded as a statement of fact, although it would be considered as opinion if the parties were dealing on equal terms.

Court Rationale: It can be reasonably inferred that Dfs had “superior knowledge” as to whether Pl had “dance potential” and as to whether she was noticeably improving.  The undenied averments in Pl’s complaint that the flowering eulogiums heaped upon her by Dfs proceeded more to hear the ring of the cash drawer than from any honest or realistic appraisal of her dancing prowess or a factual representation.  Even in a K’ual situation where a party owes no duty to disclose facts w/i his knowledge or to answer inquiries respecting such facts, the law is if he undertakes to do so, he must disclose the whole truth.

What is plainly injurious to G F ought to be considered as a fraud sufficient to impeach a K, and an improvident agreement may be avoided b/c of surprise, or mistake, want of freedom, undue influence, the suggestion of falsehood, or the suppression of truth.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The representations made to Pl by Df were in fact false and known by Df to be false and contrary to the Pl’s true ability also known by the Df, w/h by Df from Pl so as to deceive and defraud the Pl into purchasing additional hours of dance lessons.

Defendant’s Argument: Ks can only be rescinded for fraud or misrepresentations when the alleged misrepresentation is as to a material fact, rather than an opinion, prediction, or expectation.


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