Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman

Deceit. - A seller is not liable for deceit when the knowledge, or way of obtaining it, is equally known by both parties. If one goes into a store to buy a bushel of apples that he has seen by the door and inquires the price and pays for them without making any inquiry concerning their quality, he cannot recover his money if half of them prove to be rotten unless the seller intentionally deceived him, for he might have inquired whether they were all like those on top and of good quality. But if the merchant should put fine ones on top in order to deceive a purchaser, he could recover for his loss. This rule has a wide application. Suppose a seller keeps his store dimly lighted intentionally so that the inferior quality of his goods cannot be discerned, and a [103]person should thereby be deceived and injured, he would have a good cause of action against the seller. Suppose a ship was decayed in places, and these were intentionally so concealed that they could not easily be seen by one who was examining with the intention of purchasing, and he was thereby misled, the seller would be liable for the loss to the purchaser. Of course, the prudent course is to obtain a warranty, or better still, whenever practicable, buy of one who has established a reputation for honest, fair dealing.

Suppose a man purchases a piece of land, generally supposed to be an ordinary farm, which contains, as he knows, a valuable coal mine, can the seller after the public knowledge of the mine, recover the land or a larger purchase price therefor? Has the purchaser deceived him? Did the law require the purchaser to make known his superior knowledge before purchasing? No, if it did, there would be no end to the confusion to which such a rule would lead. It is within ordinary experience that purchasers buy either knowing or supposing they will reap advantages from their contracts of which the seller is ignorant. There is no deception in this; but there is in withholding knowledge from the buyer of the quality or condition of a thing that affects its value, and which if known by him would probably prevent him from purchasing. Suppose a horse is blind in one eye and the prudent horse trader says nothing. Can the buyer recover? Ordinarily he could not, for he ought to have looked, and if he did not know enough to look, either he should have obtained a warranty, or have employed a competent agent to purchase for him. Suppose the old trader, skilled in his business, intentionally put his horse in the shadow so that the defective eye could not be seen, then the seller would surely have his remedy against him. If he put his horse there accidentally he would not.

Is a wink a deception for which the winker must answer in the law? A hardened dealer once went near a large meeting of men with a wagon load of bottles containing cold tea. The thirsty crowd soon came around. "One dollar a piece," he announced with a wink. The wink was effective and the bottles were quickly sold. They were filled with cold tea, and the buyers sued for the deceit that had been practiced on them. They failed, the court said that a wink was not enough. Another court might have decided otherwise.


Do It Yourself Legal Forms
Law for the Laymen - Deceit
Page Updated 6:35 PM Thursday 6/13/2013