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caveat emptor


The term "CAVEAT EMPTOR" is much misunderstood.

It is a term which applies to the ownership of an item.

It means that you take a risk that the person who is selling you an item is actually the owner.
If you buy a good which has been stolen then the fact that you bought it in good faith does not legitimise your ownership of it

Once a good is stolen, then it stays stolen no matter how many good faith hands it passes through and how much time has passed before the item is recovered.

In strict legal theory, if stolen goods are exchanged then the goods for which they have been exchanged also become "stolen".
If stolen goods are sold for money, then the money becomes "stolen"and if that money is used to buy further goods, those goods also become "stolen".


As we are talking in Latin, the maxim for this is "nemo dat quod non habet" – which broadly means no man can transfer on what he does not have to transfer.

If you do not have ownership of goods then you are not able to pass on ownership of them even though you can transfer the physical possession of the goods.
Caveat Emptor has nothing to do with the quality of the goods that you purchase. It concerns only the quality of the title which comes with the goods.


You should note that this is particularly an Anglo-Saxon concept.

The notion of "nemo dat" for the most part does not exist in European legal systems where instead, a purchaser in good faith can normally take good title.

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