ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hey There, Wood v. Boynton Fans!

As CNN reports here, a man, who seems to have chosen anonymity, bought a small floral bowl at a garage sale for $35.  It turns out to be a 15th-century antique commissioned by the Ming dynasty's imperial court and worth around $300-500,000.  The buyer must have suspected that the bowl was valuable, as he sent photographs to specialists shortly after the purchase.

Eagle Diamond
Unilateral or mutual mistake?

Between buyer and seller, who ought to bear the risk of this mistake?

Commentary, In the News, True Contracts | Permalink


Unilateral mistake. Seems that the buyer knew it was at least possible these had real value. The article gives no indication the seller beared the risk of the mistake. The fact it was sold at a garage doesn’t change that fact. Still unlikely to be set aside even though it may an unconscionable result in most circles.

Posted by: Chris Ng | Feb 25, 2021 11:09:54 PM

Can there be an option C—none of the above? To me, utterly failing to do one's (the seller's) homework before selling an item doesn't even rise to the level of unilateral mistake. It's just indifference (or laziness, if you want to be less charitable). Everyone knows—or should know—that (1) sometimes an item sold at a garage sale ends up being quite valuable and (2) professional or hobbyist antique hunters like to frequent those kinds of sales. If you do nothing to account for those two phenomena, that's pretty much on you. So clearly I'm not finding (no pun!) any basis for recission. It seems like a doctrine that allows recission would reward the party who doesn't pay attention. Maybe purely as a gesture of appreciation, the buyer might offer up a small portion of the eventual auction proceeds, but that's about it. The doctrine here should be caveat venditor.

Posted by: hardreaders | Feb 26, 2021 1:36:58 AM

If Murph the Surf were still alive, that bowl would not be safe.

Posted by: Otto Stockmeyer | Feb 26, 2021 7:04:16 AM