Oswald v. Allen

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit417 F.2d 43 (1969)


Dr. Oswald (plaintiff) was a coin collector from Switzerland who spoke practically no English. He was interested in buying Allen’s (defendant) collection of Swiss coins. Oswald traveled to the United States and the two parties met at a bank where the coins were stored in two different collections—the Swiss Coin Collection and the Rarity Coin Collection. Oswald was shown both collections, but did not realize they were two separate collections. The price was negotiated through an interpreter. During negotiations, no one realized that that there was an ambiguity with using the phrases “Swiss coins” and “Swiss Coin Collection.” Oswald wrote a letter to Allen confirming the purchase of “all your Swiss coins” and arranging delivery. Allen wrote back regarding the delivery arrangements only. Allen later wrote that she had miscalculated the number of coins to be sold and permitted Oswald to re-examine them. Oswald sent a letter in response stating his understanding of the agreement and asked Allen to sign it as a formality only. Allen then informed Oswald that she would not sell the coins because her children did not want her to do so. Oswald filed suit. The trial court found that Oswald thought he was buying all “Swiss coins” and Allen thought she was selling the “Swiss Coin Collection.” The trial court held that a contract had not been formed.

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