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Reliance disclaimer kills fraudulent-inducement claim against IBM, says SCOTX

From IBM Corp. v. Lufkin Industries, LLC, No. 17-0666, slip op. (Tex. Mar. 15, 2019): IBM told Lufkin that IBM could adapt a particular software system to Lufkin’s needs.  The project turned out badly, and Lufkin sued IBM for fraudulent misrepresentation, but a reliance disclaimer in the contract ruled out the fraudulent inducement claim.

So what did IBM do wrong, exactly? According to the Texas supreme court:

IBM made numerous representations about its Express Solution that turned out to be false.

  • IBM represented that the Express Solution was a preconfigured system that could be implemented for Lufkin within four to six months and meet eighty percent of Lufkin’s requirements without any enhancements.
  • IBM knew, however, that its Express Solution would require extensive customization before it could meet most of Lufkin’s needs.
  • Yet IBM continued to represent the Express Solution as a “fit” for Lufkin, hoping it could land the sale and then figure out how to provide what Lufkin needed.

In September 2009, IBM presented a demonstration of the Express Solution for Lufkin.

  • During this demonstration, IBM’s representatives again represented that the Express Solution would meet eighty percent of Lufkin’s needs without any customization.
  • In fact, the representatives knew that Express Solution was designed for much smaller operations and could not meet Lufkin’s requirements without extensive and costly enhancements.

Relying on IBM’s misrepresentations, Lufkin agreed to a written contract with IBM in March 2010. The contract— called the “Statement of Work,” or “SOW”—gave IBM about a year to finalize and implement the system, projecting that Lufkin could “go live” with IBM’s Express Solution system on March 1, 2011.

The implementation did not go well. …

Id., slip op. at 2-3 (extra paragraphing and bullets added).

What saved IBM from a $21 million verdict for fraudulent inducement was the following reliance-disclaimer language:

In entering into this SOW, Lufkin Industries is not relying upon any representation made by or on behalf of IBM that is not specified in the Agreement or this SOW, including, without limitation, the actual or estimated completion date, amount of hours to provide any of the Services, charges to be paid, or the results of any of the Services to be provided under this SOW.

This SOW, its Appendices, and the Agreement represent the entire agreement between the parties regarding the subject matter and replace any prior oral or written communications.

Id., slip op. at 6 (extra paragraphing added).  The supreme court said:

… we hold that contractual disclaimers bar the buyer from recovering in tort for misrepresentations the seller made both to induce the buyer to enter into the contract and to induce the buyer to later agree to amend the contract.

Id., slip op. at 1.