§ 2-403. Power to Transfer; Good Faith Purchase of Goods; "Entrusting".

Please look at the statute above. It is fairly short. There is a link to it here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/2/2-403

I am confused by what is meant by the part that says "cash sale". Please explain it to me and tell me what a "cash sale" has to do with voidable title. Doesn't cash sale just mean you are paying cash for something? That sounds perfectly innocent to me.

EDIT: is it possible that by putting quotes around "cash sale" this was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying counterfeit money? I don't think statutes are ever tongue-in-cheek, right?

1 Answer 1


The part of the statute (which is part of an article of the Uniform Commercial Code model language applicable to the sale of goods) that you are discussing reads as follows:

1) A purchaser of goods acquires all title which his transferor had or had power to transfer except that a purchaser of a limited interest acquires rights only to the extent of the interest purchased. A person with voidable title has power to transfer a good title to a good faith purchaser for value. When goods have been delivered under a transaction of purchase the purchaser has such power even though

(a) the transferor was deceived as to the identity of the purchaser, or

(b) the delivery was in exchange for a check which is later dishonored, or

(c) it was agreed that the transaction was to be a "cash sale", or

(d) the delivery was procured through fraud punishable as larcenous under the criminal law.

I have put the critical language of (1)(c) for the purpose of understanding what they are talking about when they are talking about "cash sales" in bold.

You are asking:

Please explain it to me and tell me what a "cash sale" has to do with voidable title. Doesn't cash sale just mean you are paying cash for something? That sounds perfectly innocent to me.

Items (1)(a), (1)(b), (1)(c) and (1)(d) involve circumstances which are examples of transactions in which a buyer of goods obtains voidable title from the seller.

This means that the sale can be undone if the seller acts promptly enough, but the sale can't be undone if the buyer in turn sells the goods to a good faith purchaser for value (i.e. someone who pays a meaningful price for the goods without knowledge that the seller only has voidable title).

If the goods have been sold to a good faith purchaser for value, however, then the seller who could otherwise undo the sale entirely can now only sue the buyer for damages (usually the agreed purchase price, or fair market value if no purchase price had been agreed upon yet).

When it says in (1)(c) that "it was agreed that the transaction was to be a "cash sale"," what the statute is describing is a transaction where the original deal was that you will deliver goods to me with the understanding that I will pay you for the goods in full with currency or other "good funds" (like a wire transfer), roughly contemporaneously. But, what actually happens is that you deliver the goods to me and instead of promptly paying you the cash you are owed for the goods, I don't actually pay you anything.

This could happen because I was trying to cheat you and get something for nothing, in which case I would have also committed fraud which also falls under (1)(d).

More innocently, suppose that I run a small grocery store and you run a dairy that delivers milk for resale to my grocery store every morning at 5 a.m. before banks open, in time for the morning rush of innocent customers milk to put in their coffee on their way to work, before the banks open, and then I go to the bank when it opens every day at 9 a.m. and take out some cash and hand it over to your money collector, when your money collector stops buy my grocery store around lunch time. But, today, I was stunned to discover that all of the money in my bank account had been frozen due to a garnishment on a money judgment against me that I hadn't been aware of because the process server who was supposed to give me notice of the lawsuit against me instead threw the court papers in the sewer and lied on the return of service saying that he'd delivered the court papers to me, so that unbeknownst to me, a default judgment was entered against me.

The sale would be voidable in both cases, the one where I was trying to cheat you while telling you that it would be a "cash sale" and the one where I innocently found out that I didn't have the money to pay you that I had no reasons to think that I wouldn't have available to me. And, in each situation, if my grocery store sold half the milk that was delivered to me in the morning rush, those sales would be valid and irreversible, even though I completely stiffed the dairy owner and there was a total failure of consideration in what was supposed to have been a cash sale transaction. But, the dairy owner would have a right, when he found out that he wasn't getting paid at noon and the sale turned out to have been a voidable one, to take back all the milk that hadn't been sold to my customers yet in the hope that he could sell it to someone else who was actually willing and able to pay for it instead.

In general, under circumstances when a sale is voidable, if I haven't resold the goods to a good faith purchaser for value, then you can legally force me to return the goods and have the sale invalidated. But, if I have sold the goods to somebody else for a more than nominal price, and the person who bought the goods from me doesn't know that I cheated you by not paying for the goods, then you can't undo my sale of the goods that I didn't pay for to the good faith purchaser for value.

Situation (1)(c) is very similar to situation (1)(b), in which you give me the goods and I give you are personal check for the purchase price, but the check is then dishonored by the bank (something that could been my intentional plan to cheat you, but which could also have been my failure to keep track of the balance in my bank account as I wrote checks). Both of these situations involve broken promises which may or may not have been made with no intent to honor those promises in the first place.

Situations (1)(a) and (1)(d), in contrast, involve out and out fraud and deceit, but not "fraud in the factum". In other words, what (1)(a), (1)(b), (1)(c) and (1)(d) all have in common is that the goods were voluntarily delivered by you to me, even though your voluntary delivery was obtained by improper means such a deceit regarding who is buying the goods. ("Fraud in the factum", which is also void, involves situations when, for example, I ask you for you to sign what I tell you is a birthday card, when what I have actually done is have you sign a letter authorizing your delivery man to deliver lots of goods to me, and then I use that letter to have goods delivered to me.)

In case (1)(a) this would often be a sale on credit or open account to someone you believe to have good credit but who is in fact someone else with bad credit. For example, you make a sale to George Shrub, thinking you will be delivering goods to George Shrub, Sr. who has good credit, but instead you are tricked into delivering the goods to George Shrub, Jr. who has multiple bankruptcies and never pays his bills on time.

In case (1)(d) there are myriad possible examples. For example, I may have given you counterfeit money to get you to deliver the goods to me. Or, I may have purchased your cow in a barter exchange for beans that I told you were magic beans, but that were really just ordinary beans.

But, in both (1)(a) and (1)d), as well as in (1)(b) and (1)(c), you are voluntarily delivering the good to me and then not getting what you thought you had bargained for in the deal, sometimes with evil motives and sometimes for innocent reasons, so voidable title arises.

In contrast, suppose that I snuck into my stockyard one night and stole the goods from you. In that situation, you would have a right to get your goods back not only from me, but even from a good faith purchaser for value to whom I sold the stolen goods, because out and out theft that does not even involve consent procured through fraud or a broken promise, doesn't give me any title to the property, not even voidable title.

Similarly, suppose that I pointed a gun at you in your shop and insisted that you deliver the goods to me or else I will kill you. Again, in that situation, you aren't giving me even voidable title to the goods, and you can sue a good faith purchaser for value from me to get the goods that I never had any colorable claim to have ever owned back.

The language in the first sentence of (1) goes along with the language about voidable sales of goods in the rest of (1), because the first sentence of (1) covers situations when I may not have 100% ownership of goods that I sell to some else.

For example, suppose that I have a pedigreed male dog that I have purchased the pet rights in from a breeder, while the breeder has retained the stud rights in the dog. (Yes, these transactions really happen. I've litigated them.) Under the first sentence of (1), I can sell the pet rights I have in the dog to you, but I can't sell the stud rights that I don't own to you because I don't own them. And, unless I am a pet store owner to whom the dog has been "entrusted" (and I'm not a pet shop owner), I probably can't destroy the stud rights through a sale of the dog to you when I am purporting to be selling you both the pet rights and the stud rights, even if you are a good faith purchaser for value, because I am not a merchant to whom the "entrusting" doctrine applies. So, if I sold the dog, the owner of the stud rights could still enforce those rights against the person to whom I sold the dog.

Parts (2) and (3) deal with an exception to the general rule in the first sentence of (1) called "entrusting" which is quite similar to voidable title. Entrusting involves you leaving your goods with a merchant who is in the business of selling those kinds of goods. So, if I leave my nice clothes with a consignment shop or a pawn shop and the consignment shop or pawn shop sells my clothes to someone and give the buyer good title, and I can't undo that sale even if you didn't actually have my permission to sell the nice clothes that I had entrusted to the consignment store or pawn shop (e.g. perhaps they were only allowed to sell my wedding dress for a minimum price of $100, but instead sold it to someone for $30 which they didn't have permission to do, then the buyer of my wedding dress for $30 would still have good title to the wedding dress and the sale couldn't be undone).

But, on the other hand, if I leave my nice clothes with an automobile parts shop or a grocery store or a stationary store, and they don't actually have my permission to sell the nice clothes that I left in their care, and then they sold my nice clothes to one of their customers, that sale made without my permission would be void and could be undone, even if their customer paid more than a nominal price for my nice clothes and had no knowledge that the merchant didn't have my permission to sell my nice clothes. This is because we don't believe that someone who buys, for example, my wedding dress from an automobile parts shop or grocery store or stationary store, can legitimately say that they really believed in good faith that the seller really had your permission to sell my wedding dress, because that is not an ordinary merchant-customer transaction for them.

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