Mistaken Shipboard Diamond Deal Case Will Get New Trial

A jewelry-smart passenger will get to plead his case again in a now 5-year-old lawsuit involving a 20 ct. diamond that was mistakenly sold on board a cruise ship for a fraction of its intended price.

In Feb. 2013, former jewelry dealer Thomas DePrince took a Starboard cruise and spotted a 20.73 ct. emerald-cut E VVS2 diamond in the ship’s jewelry store. When he inquired about the gem’s price, the store manager, who had never sold a diamond of that size before, reached out to the company’s corporate office.

The supplier responded that the price was $235,000. That, it turns out, was the stone’s per-carat price; its real price was $4.85 million. The manager didn’t realize that and sold it for that amount.

Five days later, the company discovered the mistake, unilaterally reversed the charge, and canceled the sale. DePrince filed suit in Miami-Dade County court, claiming breach of contract.

Starboard won the first round, as a Miami-Dade County circuit judge granted the cruise line’s motion for summary judgment, arguing that the company had made a unilateral mistake, DePrince would not suffer any damages if the deal was canceled, and Starboard had not shown any negligence.

But that verdict was overturned on appeal, with the appeals court ruling the judge had to apply a four-pronged test into what constitutes a “unilateral mistake.”

That led to a trial, which Starboard again won.

But now two judges from Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals have voided that trial, arguing the judge made a mistake in his jury instructions.

In overturning the first ruling, the appeals court found that a “unilateral mistake” requires, among other things, that a company was induced into making the error.

This time, the court found the trial judge went astray in telling the jury “omission of information could be an inducement,” said the majority opinion signed by judge Robert Luck.

While Luck admitted that DePrince knew he was getting a great deal, it wasn’t fair for the judge to imply that he “induce[d]” Starboard by not mentioning that.

“The inducing party had to act in some way to induce the other party into making a mistake,” wrote Luck. “Knowing material information but omitting to tell the other party was not enough.”

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Edwin A. Scales said he considered this a “textbook unilateral mistake of fact case.”

(Image from Wikipedia)


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