State Supreme Court’s Opinion May Help Abolish “Bait and Switch” Practice

Generally speaking, the long-standing parole evidence rule precludes a party to a written contract from presenting evidence that is directly at variance with the promise of the writing.   In what could be considered a victory for consumers, on January 13, 2013, the state Supreme Court held that parole evidence rule does not bar evidence of fraudulent promises at variance with the terms of the writing, essentially overruling the 75-year old parole evidence rule. Riversiland Cold Storage Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Prod. Credit Assn., 55 Cal. 4th 1169 (2013).   This may help fight against the use of “bait and switch” tactics wherein the consumer is told the contract they are about to sign says something it does not.  “When fraud is proven, it cannot be maintained that the parties freely entered into an agreement reflecting a meeting of the minds.”