It is well settled that statements of domestic law though false and fraudulent do not generally constitute actionable fraud.48 And on this principle, a conscious misstatement of the meaning of certain terms in a written contract has been held immaterial.,49 The ground upon which this rule properly rests is well expressed as follows: "A representation of what the law will or will not permit to be done is one on which the party to whom it is made has no right to rely; and if he does so it is his folly, and he cannot ask the law to relieve him from the consequences. The truth or falsehood of such a representation can be tested by ordinary vigilance and attention. It is an opinion in regard to the law, and is always understood as such." 50 In some cases the reason for the rule will fail, and in such cases misrepresentation of law, like misrepresentation of opinion, will be actionable. A misrepresentation of law by a lawyer to a layman, or by any one who has or purports to have expert knowledge and, therefore, is enabled to impose on another, is fraudulent ;51 and in cases within the jurisdiction of courts of equity relief has been given for mistake of law fraudulently induced or connived at by the other party.52 It Bhould also be observed that statements of law (resembling in this respect statements of opinion) which literally taken are merely an expression of a conclusion of law may, in effect, amount to an assertion of the truth of certain facts. Thus an assertion that goods have been attached, though involving a statement of law, also involves a statement of seizure in fact."
48 Hirschfield v. London, etc., Ry., 2 Q. B. D. 1; Eogleafield v. Marquis of Londonderry, 4 Ch. D. 693 (C. A.); Upton r. TribUcock, 91 U. S. 45, 23 L. Ed. 203; Sturm v. Boker, 150 U. S. 312, 14 S. Ct. 99, 37 L. Ed. 1093; Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Phinney, 178 U. S. 327,20 S. Gt. 906, 43 L. Ed. 1088; Keens v. Corning, 51 Fed. Rep. 774; Beall v. McGehee, 57 Ala. 438; Jordan v. Pickett, 78 Ala. 331; Champion v. Woods, 79 Gal. 17, 21 Pac. 534, 12 Am. St. Rep. 126; Fish v. Cteland, 33 HL 243; Hooker v. Midland Steel Co., 215 HI. 444, 74 N. E. 445, 106 Am. St. Rep. 170; Burt v. Bowles, 69 Ind. I; Grant tr. Grant, 59 Me. 573; Thompson v. Phoenix Ins. Co., 75 Me. 55, 46 Am. Rep. 357; Carter p. Harden, 78 Me. 528, 7 Atl. 392; Jaggar v. Winslow, 30 Minn. 293, 15 N. W. 242; Easton-Taylor Trust Co. c. Loker (Mo. App.), 205 8. W. 87; Wiebke v. De Wyngaert, 88 N. i. Eq. 41, 101 Atl. 410; -Etna Ins. Co. j. Reed, 33 Ohio St. 283; Cart-wright v. Dickinson, 88 Term. 476, 480, 12 8. W. 1030, 19 Am, St. Rep. 910; Gormely v. Gymnastic Assn., 55 Wis. 350,13 N. W. 242.
49 Tradesman Co. v. Superior Mfg. Co, 147 Mich. 702, 111 N. W. 343,
112 N. W. 708; Providence Jewelry Co. v. Bailey, 159 Mich. 285,123 N. W. 1117.
50 Fish v. Cleland, 33 HI. 243; quoted with approval in Upton o. Tribilcock, 91 U. S. 45, 23 L. Ed. 203. The importance of a just understanding of the reason of the rule is illustrated by the case of Wood w. Roeder, 50 Neb. 476, 70 N. W. 21. In that case a misrepresentation of the Statute of Limitations in another State was held actionable, and the court said that "a misrepresentation which includes the opinion of a law of another State is without the rule," which governs misrepresentations of law generally. See also Upton v. Englehart, 3 Dill. 496, 501; Bethell v. Bethell, 92 Ind. 318. It may be thought that the difference between a misstatement of foreign law and a misstatement of domestic law is rather a difference in degree than of kind. See Mutual Life Ins. Co. p. Phinney, 178 V. S. 327, 341, 20 S. Ct. 906, 44 L. Ed. 1088. The question in any case should be, Was the reliance of the injured party justified by the relation between the parties or the expert knowledge which the maker of the statement purported to have?
A statement of the law of a foreign jurisdiction is a statement of fact and, therefore, if false may be fraudulent; 54 but it should still be asked whether reliance was justified.
51 See Townsend v. Cowlea, 31 Ala. 428; Cowlea v. Townsend, 37 Ala. 77; Stephens v. Collison, 249 111. 225, 94 N. E. 664; Peter v. Wright, 6 Ind. 183; Lamb v. Lamb, 130 Ind. 273, 30 N. E. 36, 30 Am. St. Rep. 227; Titus v. Rochester Ins. Co., 97 Ky, 567, 31 S. W, 127, 53 Am. St. Rep. 426; Mother-way v. Well, 168 Mass. 333, 47 N. E. 135; Cooke v. Nathan, 16 Barb. 342; Haviland v. Willetts, 141 N. Y. 35, 35 N. E. 958; Kline if. Kline, 57 Pa. St. 120, 98 Am. Dec. 206; Moreland v. Atchison, 1ft Tex. 303; Shuttles v. BrandfasB, 41 W. Va. 2011.
52 See infra, Sec. 1591.
53 Bums v. Lane, 138 Mass. 350. The following illustration was put by Jeasel, M. R., in Eaglesfield v. Marquis of Londonderry, 4 Ch. D. 693, "Suppose a man is asked by a tradesman whether he can give credit to a lady, and the answer is 'You may; she is a aingle woman of large fortune.' It turns out that the man who gave that answer knew that the lady had gone through a ceremony of marriage with a man who was believed to be a married man, and that she had been advised that that marriage ceremony was null and void, though it bad not been declared ao by any court, and it afterward turned out that they were all mistaken, that the first marriage of the man was void, so that the lady was married. He does not tell the tradesman all these facts, but states that she is single, That is a statement of fact. If he had told him the whole story and all the facts, and said, 'Now you see the lady is single,' that would have been a misrepresentation of law."
54 Travelers' Protective Assoc, v. Smith, 183 Ind. 59, 107 N. E. 283, Ann. Cas. 1917 E. 1088; Schneider v. Schneider, 125 la. 1, 98 N. W. 159; Windram v. French, 151 Mass. 547, 24 N. E. 914, 8 L. R. A. 750; Wood v. Roeder, 50 Neb. 478, 70 N. W. 21; Van Slochem V. Villard, 207 N. Y. 587, 101 N. E. 467. See supra, n. 50.