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Limits to the presumption of good faith when acquiring from a non-owner

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The Supreme Court issued an important judgment 23 Cdo 1837/2022 pointing out that good faith is sometimes not sufficient. Section 1109(b) of the Civil Code provides that good faith is presumed in the case of a purchaser acquiring an item not registered in a public register from an entrepreneur in the course of his business activity in the ordinary course of business. This is a logical provision; no one has the time or the ability in their daily activities to look for the real owner of the goods displayed, for example, in a shop. But there are situations where, in addition to good faith, ordinary care and caution must be involved.

In the case at hand, the plaintiff had purchased a tractor, but someone other than the seller was registered on its technical licence. In the contract, the seller stated that he had acquired the tractor from the defendant and undertook to make a change in the register within a specified period of time, but the defendant refused to cooperate, claiming that the tractor belonged to him.

The court faulted the plaintiff for lack of ordinary care and caution and noted that if the plaintiff knew at the time of entering in the purchase contract that the seller was not registered as the owner of the tractor in the vehicle register, the fact must have caused her to doubt the seller’s ownership. In that situation, her good faith that she was entitled to transfer ownership of the tractor could not be based solely on the seller’s statement in the purchase contract and the seller’s possession of the tractor.

If a circumstance in the purchase makes you doubt that the seller is the owner, do not ignore it. Deal with the matter actively yourselves, you cannot rely on the seller’s statement alone. Or you can rely on us, we are always at your service.

Author: Veronika Odrobinová, Olga Králíčková