Leaf v International Galleries [1950]

Leaf v International Galleries [1950] 2 KB 86 is an English contract law case that delves into misrepresentation, mistake, breach of contract, and the limitations of the equitable remedy of rescission.

Ernest Louis Leaf believed he was purchasing Salisbury Cathedral by John Constable from International Galleries on March 8, 1944. International Galleries asserted it was a Constable, and Leaf paid £85 for it. However, when he attempted to auction the painting five years later, he discovered it was not a Constable. Leaf sought rescission of the contract to recover his money.

Denning LJ delivered the judgment, stating that Leaf was barred due to the lapse of too much time. He acknowledged a mistake about the quality of the subject matter because both parties believed the painting to be a Constable, but this mistake did not void the contract. Denning LJ emphasised that there was no mistake about the essential subject matter, which was a painting. The identity of the painter, considered a condition of the contract, could be breached, allowing termination, or treated as a warranty, permitting damages only.

Denning LJ rejected the argument that innocent misrepresentation entitled rescission even after the contract's execution. He held that while rescission might be a proper remedy for innocent misrepresentation in some cases, it should be barred when the right to reject for breach of condition is barred. The court determined that the delay of five years was far too late for Leaf to seek rescission, and he was left without a remedy.

The court concluded that Leaf had no remedy because too much time had passed, barring rescission. The decision clarified the distinction between innocent misrepresentation and breach of condition, emphasising the limitations on seeking rescission after a significant lapse of time.
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