N.B.: This question pertains primarily to US law.
It’s been pretty well-established in the past on this board (and many other places) that when dump trucks display stickers suggesting they’re not liable for broken windshields, they have almost no legal weight. Depending on circumstances and local law, they’re not liable for some broken windshields and fully liable for others.
I’m wondering whether there’s any prohibition against making false claims about the law when one has reason to know better. An owner/operator of a dump truck displaying such a sticker probably knows that there are many circumstances under which he/she is liable for broken windshields, so displaying such a sticker seems like a bald attempt to dissuade legitimate claims by making false claims about the law.
Non-lawyers must surely be granted wide latitude in this area. Wacky claims about what’s legal and what’s not are a staple of barroom conversation across the US. It doesn’t make much sense to punish people for honest misapprehensions about the law, especially when they have no legal training. And lawyers are very careful not to offer legal advice without explicitly meaning to.
But it seems to me that non-lawyers could, under some circumstances, be reasonably expected to know how the law applies. In these cases, claiming that there is no liability when there certainly is—especially in an attempt to dissuade legitimate claims—seems like an attempt to negotiate in bad faith. Of course, these things likely vary depending on jusrisdiction.
In one counterexample, police officers generally know the law better than non-LEOs, but are not necessarily required to in all circumstances. What’s more, it’s legal for an officer to lie to a suspect in the course of an investigation. So this is one place where operating in bad faith is explicitly legal.
In another counterexample, let’s say that a rock falls from a truck’s load, goes through a windshield and kills a passenger in a car behind the truck. I imagine that’s it’s perfectly legal for a lawyer representing the trucking company to claim, in a moment of bluster or as a bluff, that “no court will ever assign liability to my client” even if the attorney in question knows that he/she is very likely to lose in court.
Attorneys have a duty of candor towards the court and its officers (in my layman’s understanding, anyway) so they’re a special case, as far as I can tell. And a dump truck driver probably doesn’t have a duty of candor towards other drivers, so maybe bumper-sticker claims made in bad faith are entirely legal.
Is it ever a crime (or a civil infraction) to knowingly lie about being liable for something? I see that it isn’t always, but the dump-truck example seems like such an overt bad-faith attempt at legal bullying that I have to wonder.