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A somewhat celebrated attorney called me the other day regarding some pending auction litigation … her issue was basically disingenuous bidding … legally more-so known as “fictitious bidding.” I cited the Supreme Court of the United States case Veazie v. Williams, 49 U.S. 134 (1850) https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/49/134/.

We discussed if there were any other cases which would help or hurt her client’s claims and there really aren’t any of material nature. That’s because some cases such as Veazie v. Williams serve as somewhat super precedents.

So what is a super precedent? The University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, an authority on Supreme Court uses of precedent, defines the status this way:

Super precedents are the doctrinal, or decisional, foundations for subsequent lines of judicial decisions (often but not always in more than one area of constitutional law). Super precedents are those constitutional decisions in which public institutions have heavily invested, repeatedly relied, and consistently supported over a significant period of time. Super precedents are deeply embedded into our law and lives through the subsequent activities of the other branches. Super precedents seep into the public consciousness, and become a fixture of the legal framework.

It would seem to me that the auction industry has (at least) three super precedents: Veazie v. Williams, 49 U.S. 134 (1850) [No fictitious bidding,] Jackson v. Smith, 254 U.S. 586 (1921) [Auctioneers represent the seller,] and Mottram v. United States, 271 U.S. 15 (1926) [As-is is supportable with reasonable opportunity to preview.]

The last of these three cases was 1926 and it appears very unlikely another auctioneer-centered case makes it to the Supreme Court of the United States ever again. That means these cases and their directives will survive in the United States potentially forever.

In today’s (2019) dollars, this 1850 case involved claims of more than $640,000, this 1921 case involved claims of about $14,000 and this 1926 case involved claims of over $12 million. Certainly costly even if not precedents.

In other words, auctioneers are advised to remember to represent the seller, generally allow previews or warranties, and don’t take bids that aren’t there — and further encouraged to remember that these rules to live by are not likely to ever change despite the circumstances and terrifically difficult to defend in court.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.