The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Caveat Emptor

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CAVEAT, kä'vē-ät, EMPTOR (Lat. “let the buyer beware”), a rule of law that warns the purchaser to take care and examine property before he buys it. In sales of real estate the purchaser's right to relief depends on the covenants in the deed in the absence of fraud on the part of the vendor. In 1 Serg. & R. 42, the rule is stated as follows:

“The rule of caveat emptor strictly applies to the purchase of lands, and the consideration-money cannot be recovered back after a deed executed, unless in case of fraud, where some covenant inserted in the deed has been broken. The purchaser has it in his power to protect himself by proper covenants, and there is no reason why the law should provide to him a remedy, where he himself has been wholly inattentive and negligent in this particular.”

In sales of personal property the purchaser buys at his own risk, in the absence of an express warranty by the seller, or when the law does not imply a warranty from the circumstances of the sale or the nature of the thing sold, and when the seller was not guilty of a fraudulent misrepresentation or concealment. The purchaser must examine the quality of the goods bought and rely upon his own judgment. Generally, if the article purchased is defective, and an examination, such as a reasonable and prudent man would make, would enable him to see the defect, it is not a fraud on the part of the seller not to call his attention to it.

At common law in the city of London, the law of market overt applied to all stores where articles in that particular line were sold. The purchaser got a good title, but as to the quality the purchaser must examine and judge for himself.