Store sells diamond for far less than value by mistake cancels sale client says breach of contract

DePrince v. Starboard Cruise Servs., Inc., 2018 WL 443153 (Fla. 3d DCA Jan. 17, 2018)

In DePrince, the Third District reversed a trial court decision and remanded the case for a new trial, after the trial court failed to follow the appellate holdings from the first appeal. In the first appeal, the Third District required that the trial court instruct the jury on elements of unilateral mistake.

Mr. DePrince purchased a diamond from a cruise line jewelry store, for millions less than the retail value. At the time of the purchase, Mr. DePrince knew that the diamond was being sold for one-twentieth of the actual retail value. When the jewelry shop finally realized the price was incorrect, the store reversed the charges and canceled the sale.  Mr. DePrince filed for a breach of contract.

Starboard Cruise claimed that there was a unilateral mistake, and no breach of contract. To prove unilateral mistake, the party attempting to escape liability must show (1) the mistake was induced by the party seeking to benefit; (2) there was no negligence by the party seeking to cancel the contract; (3) the denial of a release of the agreement would be inequitable, and (4) the position of the opposing party had not materially changed to prevent an unjust result.

The Third District determined that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury on the law concerning unilateral mistake and stated that “an omission of information can be considered inducement” (Mr. DePrince possessed knowledge that this was a once in a lifetime deal, and that the diamond had been mispriced). The trial court had already determined that knowing material information and not telling the other side was not enough. A false statement was required to have been made. For example, Mr. DePrince telling the store manager “You’re [the store] getting a great deal.” Additionally, the jury instructions regarding negligence were also incorrect. The court changed the prior jury instructions and court opinions which originally said, “no negligence” to “some negligence.” This allowed for the jury to find that Starboard could have acted negligently and would still be permitted to rescind the contract. Therefore, the trial court must retry the case.

When someone attempts to improperly rescind a contract, one party is likely to have suffered damages resulting from the breach of contract. Having the right counsel to guide you through the legal process is essential to ensure that your rights are protected and your damages are recovered. If you or someone you know has a breach of contract claim, please contact the lawyers at Kahn & Resnik, P.L. Our lawyers proudly serve all of Florida and will guide you through every step of the legal process from the drafting of the complaint through trial and appellate proceedings. Call us now at 954-321-0176 to set up a consultation.