Walking the Tightrope: Limiting Fraud Claims Based on Extra-contractual Statements and Omissions
For decades, courts around the country have struggled with whether to enforce, and how to interpret, contractual disclaimers that limit liability for fraud based on extra-contractual statements and omissions. These disclaimers – typically referred to as “anti-reliance clauses” or “non-reliance clauses” – most often take the form of a representation by one or both of the parties disclaiming reliance on statements made outside the four corners of the agreement. Sophisticated parties typically include anti-reliance clauses in negotiated agreements to establish what information they did and did not rely upon when entering into the transaction. These provisions are also used as a means to eliminate the threat of tort claims (namely, fraud) based on oral statements that are not reduced to a representation within the definitive agreements. Anti-reliance provisions are particularly important for sellers: although indemnification deductibles and caps define the scope of a party’s post-closing liability for breaches of contractual representations, the same often will not apply to tort-based claims premised on extra-contractual statements. As a result, selling parties are particularly motivated to eliminate the potential for fraud-based claims to the greatest extent possible.