California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1908. Reasonable Reliance

You must determine the reasonableness of [name of plaintiff]’s reliance by taking into account [his/her] mental capacity, knowledge, and experience.

New September 2003; Revised October 2004

Directions for Use

This instruction is appropriate for cases in which evidence of the plaintiff’s greater or lesser personal knowledge, education, experience, or capacity has been introduced. Trial of class actions may require a different instruction. (See Vasquez v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal.3d 800, 814 n. 9 [94 Cal.Rptr. 796, 484 P.2d 964]; see also Wilner v. Sunset Life Insurance Co. (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 952, 963 [93 Cal.Rptr.2d 413].)

Sources and Authority

  • “Whether reliance is justified is a question of fact for the determination of the trial court; the issue is whether the person who claims reliance was justified in believing the representation in the light of his own knowledge and experience.” (Gray v. Don Miller & Associates, Inc. (1984) 35 Cal.3d 498, 503 [198 Cal.Rptr. 551, 674 P.2d 253], internal citations omitted.)
  • The “leading case” (see Blankenheim v. E.F. Hutton, Co., Inc. (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 1463, 1474 [266 Cal.Rptr. 593]) on justifiable reliance states: “[N]or is a plaintiff held to the standard of precaution or of minimum knowledge of a hypothetical, reasonable man. Exceptionally gullible or ignorant people have been permitted to recover from defendants who took advantage of them in circumstances where persons of normal intelligence would not have been misled. ‘No rogue should enjoy his ill-gotten plunder for the simple reason that his victim is by chance a fool.’ If the conduct of the plaintiff in the light of his own intelligence and information was manifestly unreasonable, however, he will be denied a recovery. ‘He may not put faith in representations which are preposterous, or which are shown by facts within his observation to be so patently and obviously false that he must have closed his eyes to avoid discovery of the truth.’ ” (Quoting Seeger v. Odell (1941) 18 Cal.2d 409, 415 [115 P.2d 977], internal citations omitted.)
  • “Except in the rare case where the undisputed facts leave no room for a reasonable difference of opinion, the question of whether a plaintiff’s reliance is reasonable is a question of fact. ‘What would constitute fraud in a given instance might not be fraudulent when exercised toward another person. The test of the representation is its actual effect on the particular mind …’ ” (Blankenheim, supra, 217 Cal.App.3d at p. 1475, internal citation omitted.)
  • “[Plaintiff]’s deposition testimony on which appellants rely also reveals that she is a practicing attorney and uses releases in her practice. In essence, she is asking this court to rule that a practicing attorney can rely on the advice of an equestrian instructor as to the validity of a written release of liability that she executed without reading. In determining whether one can reasonably or justifiably rely on an alleged misrepresentation, the knowledge, education and experience of the person claiming reliance must be considered. Under these circumstances, we conclude as a matter of law that any such reliance was not reasonable.” (Guido v. Koopman (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 837, 843—844 [2 Cal.Rptr.2d 437], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 812—815

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 40, Fraud and Deceit and Other Business Torts, § 40.06 (Matthew Bender)

23 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 269, Fraud and Deceit (Matthew Bender)

10 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 105, Fraud and Deceit (Matthew Bender)

2 California Civil Practice: Torts (Thomson West) § 22:32