If someone agrees to sell me something through e-mail, then sells it to someone else while I’m in transit, am I entitled to anything?

I contacted a seller about buying an item. I said I would purchase it over the phone, and we agreed to meet. Through email, we set up a time and place (their house, all of their personal info is in the emails). I left work early, drove 2.5 hours to the sellers’ house only to be informed that they had just sold it to someone else. Not only did they agree to me buying it in writing (email) they also stated outright that they would hold the item for me until I arrived in the case of other people showing up that were also interested in buying. Am I entitled to anything? Is this breach of contract?

Asked on June 5, 2012 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

From what you write, this may well be a breach of contract: there was an agreement between the two of you that he would sell you the item and you would purchase it, and you were  in the process of performing. You cannot recover the actual item from the other purchaser, if he/she was an innocent purchaser (didn't know the seller would have to breach an agreement to sell it to them); however, you could potentially sue the seller for damages, such as the difference in cost to get the item elsewhere, if higher than what you would have paid; the cost of gasoline or travel; and/or if not getting the item caused you to incur some other loss (e.g. you needed it for business; not getting it that day caused you lose a sale or work), for  the value of that loss.

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