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Griffith v. Byers Constr. Co. of Kansas, Inc.

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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs purchased a home from defendant. Plaintiffs later discovered that the condition of the soil surrounding the home prevented them from growing any plants.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Even in the absence of privity, liability may be imposed upon a party who conceals a matter material to a transaction.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Liability for misrepresentation is not necessarily limited to the person with whom the misrepresenter deals.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

Griffith (plaintiff) purchased a home developed by Byers Construction Company of Kansas, Inc. (“Byers”) (defendant). The home was originally part of an abandoned oil field, which caused the land surrounding the home to have terrible soil fertility. The Griffiths were unaware of this fact when they purchased the home. The Griffiths planted grass, shrubs, and trees around their home, which died due to the saline content of the soil. They sued Byers for fraudulent concealment of the home’s soil fertility.

Issue.

In the absence of privity, may liability may be imposed upon a party who conceals a matter material to the transaction?

Held.

Yes. Although privity did not exist between the parties, Griffith may still bring a fraudulent concealment claim against Byers. The order of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of defendant on claims pertaining to fraudulent concealment is reversed.

Discussion.

Fraudulent concealment is actionable if its is material to the transaction. A matter is material if a reasonable person would attach importance to it when deciding whether or not to undertake the transaction. There is no doubt that a potential purchaser of a home would consider the soil condition as a material factor when deciding whether or not to purchase the home. Here, Byers had knowledge of the soil fertility surrounding the home and failed to disclose this material defect to the Griffiths. Byers’ silence and failure to disclosure constitutes fraudulent concealment.


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