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Williams v. Rank & Son Buick, Inc.

Citation. 44 Wis.2d 239, 170 N.W.2d 807
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff purchased a used car that allegedly had air-conditioning. Several days after the purchase, plaintiff discovered that the car was not actually air-conditioned. He brought suit against the car dealership for fraud.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In a suit for misrepresentation, a plaintiff cannot justifiably rely upon obviously false statements.


Williams (plaintiff) went to Rank & Son Buick, Incorporated’s (“Rank & Son”) (defendant) used car lot to shop for an air-conditioned car. Williams found a Chrysler automobile that he had previously seen in an advertisement. The car salesman said that the Chrysler was air-conditioned and invited Williams to take the car out for a test drive. Williams drove the car for about an hour and a half and decided to purchase it. Several days later, however, Williams discovered the car was not actually air-conditioned. He brought an action against the dealership, Rank & Son, for fraud.


Whether the plaintiff was justified in relying on the misrepresentations of defendant?


No. Williams was not justified in relying upon the oral representation of the car salesman. The order of the trial court is reversed.


Justice Wilkie

The falsity of the representation was not so obvious that Williams had no right to rely upon it. The determination was one for the jury.


To determine reliance, a court must examine whether the statement’s falsity could have been detected by ordinary observation in light of the intelligence and experience of the misled individual. Here, Williams was a literate person with a degree of business acumen. He dealt with the dealership at arm’s length, and the salesman made no effort to interfere with Williams’ inspection of the car. If air conditioning was truly the main reason Williams purchased the car, then it is doubtful that he would not try the air conditioner.

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