Monday, November 13, 2006
I had never heard of Lenawee County Board of Health v. Messerly before I adopted Knapp, Crystal and Prince's Problems in Contract Law, but I congratulate them on the choice, as the case teaches quite well in my experience. For those unfamiliar with the case, the facts of the case are that the Pickles bought from the Messerlys a 600-square-foot property, which housed a three-unit apartment building. The Pickles agreed to take the property "as is," but soon thereafter discovered a sewage leak that rendered the apartment building uninhabitable. A nonconforming septic system, installed by a prior owner, was the culprit. The trial court found no fraud or misrepresentation. The case serves to address the doctrine of mistake.
I can never quite get my mind around the idea of a 600-square-foot plot of land upon which a three-unit appartment building is situated. One of my students this semester hales from Lenawee County and tells me that it is a rural area where people seldom deal in tracts of land smaller than one acre. Equally baffling, how can it be that nobody had any knowledge of the nonconforming setpic system and the attendant sewage leak until the Pickles quite literally stepped in it? Do these people lack a sense of smell? My students always raise these worldly questions, but conveniently they play no role in the opinion. This allows us to focus on mistake:
The sewage leak, that was no trickle.
Now the property ain't worth a nickel.
When "as is" you take,
You eat your mistake,
So bon appetite, Mr. Pickles.