Wood v. Boynton

64 Wis. 265 (1885)

Quick Summary

Wood (plaintiff) sold an uncut diamond to Boynton (defendant), a jeweler, for one dollar. After discovering that the stone was worth around $700, the plaintiff attempted to rescind the sale by tendering back the purchase price and demanding the stone’s return.

The defendant refused, and the plaintiff brought an action for replevin to recover possession of the diamond.

Facts of the Case

Wood (plaintiff) owned a small stone of unknown nature and value. The plaintiff showed the stone to Boynton (defendant), a jeweler, who mistakenly believed it might be a topaz and offered to buy it for one dollar.

The plaintiff initially declined but sold the stone to the defendant for one dollar in December 1883. Subsequently, it was determined that the stone was a rough diamond worth approximately $700.

The plaintiff then tendered one dollar and ten cents (including interest) to the defendant and demanded the return of the diamond, which the defendant refused.

Procedural Posture and History

  1. The plaintiff sold a small stone to the defendant in December 1883.
  2. The plaintiff tendered the purchase price to the defendant and demanded the stone’s return.
  3. The defendant refused, and the plaintiff brought an action for replevin in the circuit court.
  4. After hearing all evidence, including the plaintiff’s testimony and that of Mr. Boynton (the defendant), the circuit court judge directed the jury to find a verdict for the defendants.
  5. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, which was denied, resulting in judgment being entered in favor of the defendants.

I.R.A.C. Format

Issue

Whether the plaintiff can rescind the sale and recover possession of the diamond based on fraud or mistake.

Rule of Law

In the absence of fraud or mistake as to the identity of the thing sold, a vendor cannot rescind the sale and maintain an action for replevin.

Reasoning and Analysis

The court reasoned that there was no evidence of fraud on the defendant’s part. Both parties were entirely ignorant of the stone’s nature and value at the time of the sale. The defendant did not know that the stone was a diamond, and there was no suggestion that he falsely declared it a topaz.

Similarly, there was no mutual mistake about the identity of the thing sold. The plaintiff showed the stone to the defendant before the sale, and the stone delivered was indeed the one sold.

Therefore, without evidence of fraud or a mistake about the item’s identity, the plaintiff could not rescind the sale and maintain an action for replevin.

Conclusion

The judgment of the circuit court, finding in favor of the defendants, is affirmed.

Key Takeaways

  1. In the absence of fraud or a mistake as to the identity of the thing sold, a vendor cannot rescind the sale and maintain an action for replevin.
  2. The disparity between the price paid and an item’s real value is insufficient evidence of fraud in a legal action.

Relevant FAQs of this case

Can a vendor rescind a sale just because the item's value was much higher than the price?

A vendor can only rescind a sale if there’s fraud or mistake about the item’s identity, not just its value.

When does a vendor have the right to pursue replevin?

A vendor can seek replevin only when fraud or mistake involves the identity of the item sold, not its monetary value.

  • For example: If someone unknowingly sells a rare comic book, thinking it’s a common one, they might have grounds for rescission. However, if the comic book’s value was merely higher or lower than expected, rescission might not apply.
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