Even the judge says this is “A gem of a case!”
In February 2013, Thomas DePrince boarded a Starboard Cruise Services Inc. ship. While on his cruise, he went into an onboard jewellery store owned and operated by Starboard and asked about the possibility of obtaining a large loose diamond between 15 and 20 carats. The store manager, Mihai Rusan, sent an email to Starboard’s corporate office in Miami to inquire if such a stone was available. Starboard forwarded the request to one of their suppliers, Sophia Fiori, and received a reply that two stones were available. Their response described the two stones:
“1. EMERALD CUT 20.64 carats D VVS2 GIA VG Price $235,000”
“2. EMERALD CUT 20.73 carats E VVS2 GIA EX EX FNT Price $245,000”
The Miami Office emailed this information to Rusan exactly as Fiori had typed it. Rusan informed DePrince of the two available stones and quoted the prices as shown in the email. DePrince said he would think about it that evening. Discussing the deal with his travel mates, his sister Carolyn DePrince and his life partner Vernon Crawford. Both happen to be Gemmologists. They said the deal was too good to be true and he should probably pass. Instead, he returned to the store and said he wanted to purchase the 20.64 ct stone. Rusan prepared a sales agreement showing the total purchase price of $235,000 plus a $25 shipping charge. The agreement was signed; DePrince paid an initial down payment of $125,000 and returned the next day with the balance of $110,025.
But there was a slight problem. Fiori’s quote to Starboard was a PER CARAT PRICE. The actual total price should have been$4,850,400. Five days later, Starboard contacted DePrince to explain that due to the email mix up the agreement was “seriously in error.” With an offer of reduced fares for future cruises, Starboard refunded the credit card charges and backed out of the deal.
DePrince refused and demanded that the purchase go forward under the terms of the sales agreement as written. DePrince sued and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Darrin Gayles granted summary judgment in favour of Starboard based on a unilateral error significant enough to allow one party to withdraw from an otherwise enforceable contract.
DePrince appealed the decision (transcript here) DePrince’s attorney, Mario Ruiz stated, “If you extend that to its logical conclusion, any vendor can set a price, enter into a contract and then five days later decide, ‘That’s not a good price. We’re going to change it.”
The appellate court reversed the lower court decision and remanded the case a trail.
Eric Isicoff, an attorney for Starboard said, “Starboard is understandably disappointed by the court’s decision. Nevertheless, it will do exactly what the court has ruled, take this case to trial and present its defenses in that forum. Starboard remains confident that it will prevail at trial.”