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I bought a signed rare book in auction in 2001, in NY . The catalog stated " personalized on request " . Can the author refuse?

New York, NY |

I did not exercise that option at the time, but have now contacted the literary agent and asked to have it personalized. Their response is that the offer was time-sensitive and that the author won't do it. My view is that since it was never stated that it was time-sensitive, he should go ahead and personalize it. Could it be argued that since the printed auction catalog said "personalized on request", that it is an open-ended promise, not subject to the six-year New York contract law statute of limitations for breach? Some things have a lifetime guarantee. Couldn't I say that such was implied? . Wouldn't the 6 year statute apply from the time I actually make the request - i,e,. that the breach does not occur until I make the request and it is refused - leaving me 6 years from now to sue?

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

Hypothetically, you might argue that the personalization on request is an option as part of the purchase (an irrevocable offer) and that your exercise of it was therefore without time, especially as the seller did not limit it in time, and as such, he is in breach and if you are within the statute from the time of refusal, that he is liable. There also may be other theories. See an experienced contract attorney.

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Asker

Posted

What could be the extent of his liability?

Posted

Seems like it is a bit late. Did the catalog state that it was a lifetime request? Any reason for the 12 year delay in making a request?

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Asker

Posted

The catalog only stated "personalized on request". Why would that be different from "lifetime guarantee"? I couldn't make up my mind.

Jayson Lutzky

Jayson Lutzky

Posted

12 years is beyond the statute of limitation.

Asker

Posted

Does the catalog have to say that it is a lifetime offer, or does the fact that it didn't say either way mean that it can be legally interpreted to be such?

Asker

Posted

Beyond the statute of limitation for a breach - but doesn't the breach occur when I make the request if it is a lifetime offer?

Posted

You can make the argument that the statute of limitations doesn't start to accrue until you make the request and are refused. However, it's not a very strong argument. Even if you take out the six year statute of limitations, the court will usually imply a reasonable time in situations like these and 12 years is most likely not to be considered reasonable.

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Posted

This is a tricky question but I would say that you could make a strong argument (though not necessarily a winning argument) that the State of Limitations starts to run from the time you make the request. Rather than suing right away, why don't you write a letter to the literary agent/author and send it by certified mail, and explain your understanding of the contract, and that you are considering your legal options. Mark the letter "Without Prejudice" at the top, as this may be viewed as a settlement offer. Hopefully a firm (but polite) letter will get you what you hope to achieve without having to sue.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not take action based upon this information without consulting legal counsel. This answer is not intended to create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship. PLEASE REMEMBER: All claims and legal matters have statutes of limitations and/or other important time periods that apply to them. This means that you must take action on all claims or legal matters within the required time period(s) or your claims could be barred by the statute of limitations or dismissed. Contact our office or another competent attorney immediately to discuss the particular facts of any claim or legal issue you might have in order to learn what time periods apply to your particular situation.

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Posted

I think you're out of luck. Like a promissory note that lacks a date of payment i.e. a demand note, your time to demand that it be personalized ran six years after purchase. In actuality, I think the only reasonable way to construe an auction purchase is that the time to make the request implicitly required you to make the request at the time of purchase. Since personalized signatures tend to be substantially less valuable then those that are not, I can only wonder 1) why you want it personalized at all and 2) why you waited so long. It would have to be a really valuable book for you to pursue this any further.

If you'd like to discuss, please feel free to call. Jeff Gold Gold, Benes, LLP 1854 Bellmore Ave Bellmore, NY 11710 Telephone -516.512.6333 Email - Jgold@goldbenes.com

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Posted

Isn't there a doctrine of laches that applies when a time limit isn't explicit? Wouldn't that require them to have good reason not to still honor it (as in if a company went out of business, or such, and couldn't fulfill a warranty)? It is a very valuable book, and in this case would be worth more with the personalization since the author practically never signs or inscribes anything. Are you saying any promissory note expires in 6 years if you don't make the demand? Thanks.

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