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Hoffman v. Horton

Supreme Court of Virginia
186 S.E.2d 79 (1972)


At an auction for the foreclosure sale of real property held by trustees for the benefit of the owners Howard Horton, Ralph Kaul and their wives (defendants), Hubert Hoffman (plaintiff) submitted a bid of $177,000. With no further bids apparently forthcoming, the auctioneer paused and then said, “going once for $177,000, going twice for $177,000, sold for $177,000,” at which point he struck his right fist down onto his left palm. A trustee immediately approached the auctioneer and reported that he had missed a bid of $178,000. The auctioneer had neither seen nor heard such higher bid, but he reopened bidding against the objection of Hoffman. The auction then continued until the property was ultimately awarded to Hoffman for a winning bid of $194,000. Hoffman paid that amount under protest and sued the property owners and trustees for the $17,000 difference between his bids of $177,000 and $194,000. The trial court found, as a matter of fact which was not disputed on appeal, that the $178,000 bid was made “prior to or simultaneously with” the fall of the auctioneer’s fist upon accepting the bid of $177,000. The trial court held that the auctioneer properly exercised his discretion to reopen bidding, relying on a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) section that provides that an auctioneer may reopen bidding or declare the goods sold, at his option, in the event a higher bid is made while the auctioneer’s hammer falls during acceptance of a lower bid.

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