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The Devil is in the Detail

A recent decision of the Royal Court has highlighted the need for lawyers to be careful and that small details missed can have enormous unforeseen consequences.

The past

Jersey contracts for the sale of property traditionally contain a clause which states that the buyer takes the property with “warts and all” – all defects whether apparent or not. It is the ultimate “sold as seen” clause and purchasers were warned to make extensive checks of the property to make sure that they knew what they were buying.

The present

In the twenty-first century a practice was introduced to ask questions of the vendor about the property being bought. They, after all, should be best placed to know what they are selling. The answers to these questions were the basis of the latest court action. In a nutshell the vendor was asked questions; produced answers that everything with the house was fine; and the reality was that it was not. The person who received the answers to the questions sued and the court has decided that given the answers were given independently of the contract.

What to learn from the decision

The decision has highlighted again how carefully lawyers need to look at the contract and any connected correspondence for the benefit of their client. Here confirmations were given (maybe innocently) and perhaps (naively) the purchaser relied on them. A relationship was made and with it responsibility was confirmed; liability will follow.

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