Smith v. Richards
38 U.S. 26 (1839)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. Richards, 38 U.S. 13 Pet. 26 26 (1839)

Smith v. Richards

38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 26

Syllabus

A bill was filed in the Circuit Court of the Southern District of New York praying that a contract for the purchase and sale of a portion of a tract of land in Goochland County, in the State of Virginia, on which there was a gold mine should be rescinded. The purchaser alleged fraudulent misrepresentations as to the gold mine and other arts of the seller by which he was induced to make the purchase. The court affirmed the decree of the Circuit Court of the Southern District of New York by which the contract was ordered to be rescinded.

It is an ancient and well established principle, that whenever suppressio veri or suggestio falsi occurs, and more especially both together, they afford sufficient ground to set aside any release or conveyance.

The party selling property must be presumed to know whether the representation which he makes of it is true or false. If he knows it to be false, that is fraud of the most positive kind; but if he does not know it, then it can only be from gross negligence, and in contemplation of a court of equity, representations founded on a mistake resulting from such negligence is fraud. The purchaser confides in them upon the assumption that the owner knows his own property and truly represents it. And it is immaterial to the purchaser

whether the misrepresentation proceeded from mistake or fraud. The injury to him is the same whatever may have been the motives of the seller. The misrepresentations of the seller of property to authorize the rescinding a contract of sale by a court of equity must be of something material, constituting an inducement or motive to purchase and by which he has been misled to his injury. It must be in something in which the one party places a known trust and confidence in the other.

Whenever a sale is made of property not present, but at a remote distance, which the seller knows the purchaser has not seen but which he buys upon the representation of the seller, relying on its truth, then the representation in effect amounts to a warranty; at least the seller is bound to make good the representation.

The case is fully stated in the opinion of the Court.

In the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, a bill was filed by Guy Richards for the purpose of rescinding a contract made by the appellee with William R. Smith for the purchase of a part of the Goochland gold mine in the State of Virginia, the contract being alleged to be fraudulent. It was agreed by the counsel for the parties that a decree should be entered in the circuit court, pro forma, against the complainant, and accordingly, on 22 April, 1837, a decree was entered rescinding and annulling the contract in relation to the purchase of the Goochland mine, ordering that it be given up to said Guy Richards, that the appellant Smith repay all moneys advanced by said Guy Richards upon said contract and upon the promissory notes made by complainant and delivered to the defendant, so far as said notes had been paid by complainant, &c. From this decree an appeal has been prayed and allowed to this Court.

Page 38 U. S. 30

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