The key question in claims of common-law fraud and violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 505/1 et seq. (2000), is whether a defendant's misrepresentations or omissions were discoverable through the exercise of ordinary prudence by the plaintiff.
The Capiccionis filed a complaint alleging that they purchased a house based on a sales brochure that displayed desirable schools by stating that the home was in "Acclaimed District 204." It also alleged that the Capiccionis checked with school district employees before purchasing the house and that they were told the residence was in District 204. For three years after the Capiccionis purchased the house, their children attended school in District 204. However, the children were unable to attend District 204 classes during the 2001-2002 academic year after plaintiffs discovered that their property was actually located in District 365-U. Plaintiffs subsequently sold the property and purchased another home. After buying a new house that really was in District 204, the Capiccionis sued the real estate broker and agent, Brennan Naperville Inc., doing business as Remax Naperville, and Sharon Clermont. The complaint alleged violations of the Illinois Real Estate License Act of 2000 and Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, plus common-law fraud and negligent misrepresentation.
Was there a deceptive act or practice under the Consumer Fraud Act where home purchasers believed a home was in a certain school district but it was not?
The court held that the fact that they spoke to district employees did not break the causal chain. They adequately pled negligent misrepresentation by showing appellees' duty of care in communicating information, breach, negligence, intent, justifiable reliance, and damages. A violation of 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 454/15-25(a) (2000) of the Real Estate License Act of 2000 was pled, as a realtor's duty to refrain from false information did not only apply to a property's physical condition, the misinformation was material, did not come from the seller, and caused damage. Here, the plaintiffs alleged that they contacted District 204 employees, who misinformed them of their property's school district. Based on these pleadings, the court concluded that a set of facts exists to establish that plaintiffs exercised reasonable prudence in ascertaining the law.