Fox v. Southern Appliances, Inc., 279

Citation264 N.C. 267, 141 S.E.2d 522
Case DateApril 28, 1965
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 522

141 S.E.2d 522
264 N.C. 267
J. G. FOX and wife, Ella C. Fox
No. 279.
Supreme Court of North Carolina.
April 28, 1965.

Ray Rankin, Charlotte, for plaintiffs.

Ervin, Horack, Snepp & McCartha, Charlotte, for defendants.

MOORE, Justice.

No verbal agreement between parties to a written contract, made before or at the time of the execution of such contract, is admissible to very its terms or to contradict its provisions. Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co. v. Morehead, 209 N.C. 174, 183 S.E. 606. It will be presumed that the writing merged therein all prior and contemporaneous negotiations. Neal v. Marrone, 239 N.C. 73, 79 S.E.2d 239. But parol evidence is admissible to show that a written contract was procured by fraud, for the allegations of fraud challenge the validity of the contract itself, not the accuracy of its terms--the instrument itself, on the issue of fraud, is the subject of dispute. Anderson Cotton Mills v. Royal Manufacturing Co., 218 N.C. 560, 11 S.E.2d 550; Hardware Co. v. Kinion, 191 N.C. 218, 131 S.E. 579; Miller v. Howell, 184 N.C. 119, 113 S.E. 621; White Sewing Machine Co. v. Bulluck, 161 N.C. 1, 76 S.E. 634; Unitype Co. v. Ashcraft Bros., 155 N.C. 63, 71 S.E. 61. Fraud alleged as a defense to the enforcement of a written contract is not an attempt to vary or contradict the terms of the contract, for if the fraud be proven it nullifies the contract. White v. Fisheries Products Co., 185 N.C. 68, 116 S.E. 169; J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co. v. McKay, 161 N.C. 584, 77 S.E. 848; Tyson v. Jones, 150 N.C. 181, 63 S.E. 734. 'It is elementary that where a contract or transaction was induced by false representations, the representations and the contract are distinct and separable--that is, the representations are usually not regarded as merged in the contract * * *.' 23 Am.Jur., Fraud and Deceit, s. 23, p. 775-6.

But plaintiffs stand on the proposition that 'where the written instrument itself precludes the representation relied upon, an action on such alleged representations cannot be maintained.' 2 Strong: N.C. Index, Fraud, s. 10, p. 384; Wilkins v. Commercial Finance Co., 237 N.C. 396, 75 S.E.2d 118. They contend that the precise subject matter of the parol representation is dealt with in the written contract. The contract provides 'that the property will be conveyed subject to such * * * restrictions as appear in instruments constituting the chain of title.' Defendant alleges that it was represented that the property 'had no restrictions that would prohibit its use for business purposes except zoning restrictions of the City * * * which restricted its use to office and institutional use.' We do not agree that the contract deals with the precise matter involved in the representation. Both relate to restrictions, but the representation expressly relates to the extent of business [264 N.C. 271] restriction, while the contract merely refers defendant to the source to which he may have resort for information as to what restrictions there are. 'Referring a representee to the sources of the speaker's information does not necessarily relieve the representor from liability for false statements, since the representee's right to rely on such statements without an investigation of the sources of information mentioned is not necessarily destroyed by such reference. Whether the representee should have consulted the sources referred to depends on circumstances and is often held to be a question for the jury.' 23 Am.Jur., Fraud and Deceit, s. 158, p. 965. 'It is generally held that fraud may be predicated on false representations or concealments, although the truth could have been ascertained by an examination of public records. As otherwise expressed, the general rule is that the mere fact that public records, if examined,

Page 526

would show the representee that representations of fact are false does not preclude his establishing fraud, because he is under no duty to make such examination. This principle is especially applicable where a representation is knowingly false and is made for the express purpose of deceiving and defrauding another who relies on it, where there is a duty of disclosure of information, where the party to whom the representations are made has no opportunity to examine the records, or where such investigation would not...

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37 cases
  • Franco v. Liposcience, Inc., COA08-785.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • May 19, 2009
    ...the accuracy of its terms — the instrument itself, on the issue of fraud, is the subject of dispute." Fox v. Southern Appliances, Inc., 264 N.C. 267, 270, 141 S.E.2d 522, 525 (1965). On the other hand, "[w]hen ... the parties' conduct indicates their intention to include collateral agreemen......
  • Broussard v. Meineke Discount Muffler Shops, Inc., 3:94-CV255-P.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • October 9, 1996
    ...not the accuracy of its terms — the instrument itself, on the issue of fraud, is the subject of dispute. Fox v. Southern Appliances, Inc., 264 N.C. 267, 270, 141 S.E.2d 522, 525 (1965) (listing 10. The Court disagrees with the Plaintiffs' (and with Mr. Robinson, author of the treatise cited......
  • Cunningham v. Brown, 801SC475
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • April 7, 1981
    ...amounting to fraud or mutual mistake. Mackay v. McIntosh, 270 N.C. 69, 153 S.E.2d 800 (1967) (mutual mistake); Fox v. Southern Appliances, 264 N.C. 267, 141 S.E.2d 522 (1965) (fraud). In these circumstances the offering party does not seek to contradict a written agreement, but seeks to sho......
  • Falls v. Falls, 8010DC502
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • June 2, 1981
    ...and parol evidence is not admissible to add to, take from, or vary the terms of the agreement. Fox v. Southern Appliances, Inc., 264 N.C. 267, 141 S.E.2d 522 (c) The Adequacy Of The Child Support Awards The husband argues that the "monthly awards for each child exceeds anything proved by th......
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