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France 23 January 1996 Supreme Court (Sacovini/M Marrazza v. Les fils de Henri Ramel) [translation available]
[Cite as: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cases/960123f1.html]

Primary source(s) for case presentation: Case text

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Case identification

DATE OF DECISION: 19960123 (23 January 1996)


TRIBUNAL: Cour de Cassation [Supreme Court]

JUDGE(S): Lemontey (président); M. Ancel (conseiller rapporteur); Renard-Payen, Chartier, Durieux (conseillers); Savatier, Bignon (conseillers référendaires); Sainte-Rose (avocat général); Collet (greffier de chambre)


CASE NAME: Société Sacovini/M. Marrazza v. Sté les fils de Henri Ramel/Sté Bonfils Georges/Sté Preau et compagnie

CASE HISTORY: 1st instance Tribunal de commerce de Sète 4 June 1991 [affirmed]; 2d instance CA Montpelier 15 April 1993 [affirmed] [CISG not cited in either instance]

SELLER'S COUNTRY: Italy (plaintiff)

BUYER'S COUNTRY: France (defendant)


Case abstract

FRANCE: Court of Cassation 23 January 1996

Case law on UNCITRAL texts (CLOUT) abstract no. 150

Reproduced with permission from UNCITRAL

The seller, Sacovini, a company with its place of business in Italy, concluded several contracts in 1988 for the sale of wine with French buyers. Having learned that adulterated Italian wine had been imported into France that same year, the buyers reported the matter to the Fraud Control Service. The latter concluded that the wine had indeed been adulterated.

The French [buyers] then brought an action before the Sète Commercial Court and then before the Montpellier Court of Appeal, claiming avoidance of the sales contract relating to the disputed wine and demanding compensation for the material and moral damages that they had suffered.

The Court of Appeal, in accordance with French domestic law, declared avoided the sales contract pertaining to the consignments of wine, finding against the seller, on the ground that the latter had not honoured its contractual obligation to supply a wine conforming to the contract and of fair merchantable quality.

The Italian [seller] appealed against the decision without invoking application of the CISG. It objected to the fact that the Court of Appeal found against the seller by avoiding the contract, since, in its view, the supply of chaptalized wine [in this case, wine that had turned into vinegar] could not constitute a breach of the seller's obligation. The seller further asserted that there was no causal relationship between the chaptalization of the wine and the alleged damage, since it had been established in the case of particular consignments that the wine had been rendered unfit for consumption as a result of the conditions in which it had been transported.

The Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal. It found that the disputed contract had been an international sale of goods falling within the scope of application of CISG, which had entered into force on 1 January 1988 between France and Italy, and that the Court if Appeal had respected the provisions of that treaty, in particular its article 35, when finding that [seller], by supplying chaptalized wine, had not performed its obligation to supply goods in conformity with the contract. Finally, regarding the absence of a causal relationship between the chaptalization of the wine and the alleged damage, the Court of Cassation agreed with the ruling of the trial court according to which it was solely the treatment of the wine that had rendered it unfit for consumption.

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Classification of issues present

APPLICATION OF CISG: Yes [Article 1(1)(a)]


Key CISG provisions at issue: Articles 35 ; 49 [Also relevant: Articles 25 ; 46 ]

Classification of issues using UNCITRAL classification code numbers:

35B [Conformity of goods to contract: requirements imposed by law (fitness for purpose)];

49A1 [Buyer's right to avoid contract (grounds for avoidance): fundamental breach of contract]

Descriptors: Conformity of goods ; Avoidance ; Fundmental breach

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Editorial remarks

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Citations to other abstracts, case texts and commentaries


English: Unilex database <http://www.unilex.info/case.cfm?pid=1&do=case&id=186&step=Abstract>; [1997] 2 European Current Law, Monthly Digest (London) No. 88 [67] = [1997] European Current Law Yearbook

German: Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Internationales und Europäisches Recht (SZIER)/Revue suisse de droit international et de droit européen (1996) 140-141 [cited as 23 January 1995]

Italian: Diritto del Commercio Internazionale (1997) 759 No. 174

Polish: Hermanowski/Jastrzebski, Konwencja Narodow Zjednoczonych o umowach miedzynarodowej sprzedazy towarow (Konwencja wiedenska) - Komentarz (1997) 284-285


Original language (French): CISG - France website ("http://Witz.jura.uni-sb.de/CISG/decisions/230196v.htm"); CISG online website ("http://www.jura.uni-freiburg.de/ipr1/cisg/urteile/text/159.htm"); Bulletin des arrêts de la Chambre civile de la Cour de Cassation (1996) I, no. 38 [24-25]; Dalloz Sirey (1996) No. 24, 334; Journal du Droit International (1996) 670-671; Revue critique de droit international privé (1996) 460-461; Juris Classeur Périodique (1996) II, 2234 [260]; [1999] Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax) 126; Unilex database <http://www.unilex.info/case.cfm?pid=1&do=case&id=186&step=FullText>

Translation (English): Text presented below


English: Honnold, Uniform Law for International Sales (1999) 328 [Art. 49]; Koch, Pace Review of Convention on Contracts for International Sale of Goods (1998) 242 n.219-220 [fundamental breach: frustration of purpose of contract]; Saidov, Damages under the CISG (December 2001) n.200; [2004] S.A. Kruisinga, (Non-)conformity in the 1980 UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: a uniform concept?, Intersentia at 45; [2005] Schlechtriem & Schwenzer ed., Commentary on UN Convention on International Sale of Goods, 2d (English) ed., Oxford University Press, Art. 25 para. 21a Art. 35 para. 9; Henschel, The Conformity of Goods in International Sales, Forlaget Thomson (2005) 157, 212; Spaic, Analysis of Fundamental Breach under the CISG (December 2006) nn.300-301; Peter Huber, CISG: The Structure of Remedies, 71 RabelsZ (2007) n.60

French: Bureau, Revue critique de droit international privé (1996) 462-467; Kahn, Journal du Droit International (1996) 673-674; Leveneur, Juris-Classeur Périodique-CCC (May 1996) 4-5 No. 77; Muir Watt, Juris Classeur Périodique (1996) II, 2234 [461-462]; Witz, Dalloz Sirey (1996) No. 24, 334-338; Witz, Emptio-Venditio Internationales, Neumayer ed. (Basel 1997) 430, 433-435, 443-441, 447-452

German: Schlechtriem, Praxis des internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax) 1997, 132; Witz/Wolter, Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft (RIW) 1998, 278 [279-281]

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Case text (English translation) [second draft]

Queen Mary Case Translation Programme

Cour de Cassation 23 January 1996
Sacovini S.r.l. v. Société Les Fils de Henri Ramel et al.

Translation by Charles Sant 'Elia [*]

The Court, at the public hearing on 5 December 1995, where were present: Mr. Lemontey, président, Mr. Ancel, conseiller rapporteur, Mr. Renard-Payen, Chartier, Mr. Durieux, conseillers, Mr. Savatier, Mrs. Bignon, conseillers référendaires, Mr. Sainte-Rose, solicitor general, Mrs. Collet, chamber clerk;

On the report of Mr. Ancel, conseiller, the pleadings of Ms. Vincent, attorney for the Sacovini company and Mr. Marrazza, in their separate capacities, and the pleadings of SCP Piwnica et Molinié, attorneys for Les fils de Henri Ramel company, the briefs of Mr. Sainte-Rose, solicitor general, and after having deliberated pursuant to the law;

On the only grounds of Les fils de Henri Ramel's cross appeal, as stated in the brief and here reproduced:

Whereas the challenges of the appeal, directed against the appellate court to order the Les fils de Henri Ramel company [buyer] to pay the Sacovini company [seller] the price of shipping the wine, clash with the sovereign fact-finding power of the trial court judges who held that the [buyer] did not provide proof of its allegations according to which the delivered and commercialized wine had been adulterated;

And on the sole grounds, raised by the court pursuant to Article 1015 of the new Code of Civil Procedure, on the [seller]'s main appeal, taken in its three prongs:

Whereas the Italian [seller] complains that the challenged judgment (Montpellier, 15 April 1993) wrongfully declared the avoidance of the sales of cases of wine shipped in July 1988 to several French merchants, first, by wrongfully deciding that the existence of a defect affecting the wine constituted a breach of the seller's delivery obligation, then, secondly, that the delivery of a chaptalized wine could not constitute such a failure, then finally that there existed no causal link between the chaptalization of the wine and the alleged damage suffered since it was shown, for certain shipments, that it was the transport conditions which had rendered the wine unfit for consumption;

But whereas an international sale of goods is involved, to which the CISG must be applied, having entered into effect on 1 January 1988 between France and Italy, it is by respecting the provisions of that treaty -- and especially Article 35 -- that the appellate court held that by shipping some chaptalized wine the [seller] did not meet its obligation to deliver goods conforming to the contract; and in addition, by exercising its fact-finding function held that only the manipulation of the wine rendered the wine unfit for consumption, the court legally justified its decision;


The Cour de Cassation rejects the appeal and leaves to each party to pay its costs and expenses.



* Charles Sant 'Elia has a B.A. in Political Science and Italian Literature from New York University and studied Political Science at the Universitá degli Studi di Firenze. He received his J.D. from Pace University School of Law and is admitted to the Bar of the States of New York and Connecticut.

All translations should be verified by cross-checking against the original text.

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Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated June 19, 2007
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