Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Collector John Goulding of Gloucester brought a civil case against the Banbury saleroom after he bought a 300-year-old onion bottle for £412 including premium at the sale on May 22 last year.

The condition report, sent via email, stated that the bottle had “chips to the neck of rims” and “surface patina as if been buried in the ground for a long time”.

However, when Mr Goulding received the bottle, he noticed additional cracks in the glass. He believed the auction house had been negligent. The auctioneers, who said they were not specialists in the field, denied the charge and said the cracks were hard to see: “Other than to a specialist, it [the crack] is neither obvious nor severe – certainly neither as obvious nor as severe as the damage to which we drew the claimant’s attention.”

To be successful, a negligence case requires that the claimant prove a duty of care on behalf of the defendant, a breach of that duty and damage. In this case, District Judge Thomas at Gloucester County Court ruled that there had been a duty of care, but that it had not been breached. He ordered Mr Goulding to pay Holloway’s expenses of £40.