Where the attorney for an HOA wrote plaintiff landowner a letter informing him that the HOA considered him to be in violation of certain restrictions, judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendant attorney on plaintiff landowner’s negligent misrepresentation claim was affirmed because there was no allegation that the attorney was providing “information meant to guide [plaintiff] in a business transaction.”
In Burgess v. Bradford Hills HOA, No. M2020-01565-COA-R3-CV, 2023 WL 142392 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 10, 2023), plaintiff owned property in a subdivision. Plaintiff and the HOA had a dispute regarding whether plaintiff had violated restrictions with certain signage and noise-making devices on his property.
Plaintiff filed a pro se suit against the HOA, and he eventually added a claim against the HOA’s attorney for negligent misrepresentation. The negligent misrepresentation claim was based on a letter sent by defendant attorney “reiterat[ing] that the HOA believed the conditions on [plaintiff’s] property violated the [restrictions] and warn[ing] that the HOA would take legal action if he continued to not comply with the rules.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings on the negligent misrepresentation claim, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Regarding the negligent misrepresentation claim, the Court of Appeals stated that a plaintiff can make a negligent misrepresentation claim against a professional with whom there is a “lack of contractual privity,” but that in such a case, the plaintiff must prove four elements: “(1) the defendant is acting in the course of his business, profession, or employment, or in a transaction in which he has a pecuniary…interest; and (2) the defendant supplies faulty information meant to guide others in their business transactions; and (3) the defendant fails to exercise reasonable care in obtaining or communicating the information; and (4) the plaintiff justifiably relies upon the information.” (internal citation omitted). Here, the Court agreed that plaintiff’s second amended complaint failed to allege the necessary elements for a negligent misrepresentation claim, explaining:
The second amended complaint contains no allegation demonstrating that, in the letter…, [defendant] supplied information meant to guide [plaintiff] in a business transaction. …[Defendant] made no attempt to induce [plaintiff] into any type of business transaction or to advise him about any type of business transaction. [Defendant] merely informed [plaintiff] that the HOA considered the conditions on his property to be in violation of the [restrictions] and that the HOA would take action to enforce the [restrictions] if [plaintiff] failed to bring his property into compliance. Because there was no attempt to guide [plaintiff] in a business transaction, there was no justifiable reliance.
Judgment on the pleadings for defendant attorney on this claim was thus affirmed.
This opinion was released four months after oral arguments in this case.
Note: Chapter 89, Section 3 of Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law has been updated to include this decision.
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