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Bentley v. Slavik

United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
663 F.Supp. 736 (1987)


In January 1984, Karen Bentley (plaintiff) saw a notice posted by Charles Slavik (defendant) offering to sell an 1835 Bernadel violin. Bentley visited Slavik’s home where she played and inspected the violin for two hours. Slavik was neither an expert nor seller of violins but he produced for Bentley a certificate issued by a violin appraiser “estimat[ing]” the violin to be a genuine Bernadel valued at $15,000 to $20,000. Bentley purchased the violin for $17,500, paying $15,000 on the spot and promising to pay the balance in February. The bill of sale referred to the violin as a Bernadel. Upon remitting the balance of the purchase price in February, Bentley included a note stating how happy she was with the purchase. In or around April 1985, Bentley became aware that the violin might not be authentic. She demanded that Slavik return her money but he refused. She sued him for breach of contract and also alleged mutual mistake. The case was tried to the district court. Bentley presented expert testimony opining the violin to be inauthentic and valuing it at $2,000. The court issued findings of fact and conclusion of law.

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