Thomas v. Caldwell
Utah Supreme Court
497 P.2d 31 (1972)
Carolyn Thomas (plaintiff) was an elderly widow who had inherited two Japanese urns. Thomas also owned a number of other antiques and had some familiarity with their values. Michael and Stanley Caldwell (defendants), friends of Thomas’s children, visited Thomas’s home. During their visit, the Caldwells told Thomas that Stanley had become an expert antique appraiser. Thomas then asked Stanley to appraise some antiques she had, including the Japanese urns. Stanley appraised one urn at $1,000 and the other at $400. An antique dealer had previously offered Thomas $1,000 for the urn Stanley appraised at $1,000. In return for the appraisal, Thomas gave Stanley a painting and a gold frame. The Caldwells then offered to buy the Japanese urns from Thomas for $1,400. Thomas considered the offer for a few days and talked it over with her family before finally agreeing to sell the urns to the Caldwells. A few weeks later, however, Thomas saw that the Caldwells had advertised the Japanese urns in a local newspaper for $15,000 each. Consequently, Thomas filed a replevin suit against the Caldwells to recover the urns. A replevin suit is a lawsuit to recover personal property wrongfully obtained by another. Thomas argued that Stanley Caldwell had entered into a fiduciary relationship with Thomas by holding himself out as an expert to induce Thomas to rely on Stanley’s appraisal. Thomas further argued that Stanley had misrepresented the value of the urns to Thomas. In support of these arguments, Thomas had an expert witness testify that the Japanese urns were worth a lot more than Stanley’s appraisal and purchase price. The expert witness based his testimony on the value of Chinese vases that he said were worth less than the Japanese urns. The trial court ruled in favor of the Caldwells, finding no fiduciary relationship or misrepresentations. Thomas appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tuckett, J.)
Dissent (Ellett, J.)
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