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Reproduced with permission from the Cornell Review of the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1995) 51-94

excerpt from

Judicial Interpretation and Application of the CISG in Germany 1988-1994

Martin Karollus [*]

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Article 4

According to Article 4, the CISG does not govern questions of contract validity.[83] Therefore, only national law applies to the question of whether the contract is the correct manifestation of the parties' intent.[84] There is, however, much controversy surrounding the treatment of non-conforming goods because the CISG does not expressly exclude consideration of such non-conformity; one could therefore argue that a challenge to contract validity would be possible under national law.[85] Nevertheless, almost all German authors take the view that the CISG precludes a challenge to contract validity based on non-conforming goods.[86] This interpretation is influenced by the fact that a similar preclusion exists under German national law. It is also argued that this interpretation is necessary to ensure uniformity [LG Aachen 14 May 1993].[87]

The LG Aachen interpreted the term "validity" very broadly in a case where contracting parties agreed that the contract was contingent on certain circumstances.[88] In particular, the parties agreed that the contract would become effective only after the buyer had paid for earlier deliveries, which he actually did not. According to the LG Aachen, this contractual provision concerns "validity" under Article 4 and therefore is not governed by the CISG. I do not agree because there is no issue of "validity." The parties simply agreed on a contract term that should have been interpreted according to Article 8.

Apart from these exclusions in Article 4, other issues not governed by the CISG include the legal capacity of corporations [LG Hamburg 26 September 1990; OLG Düsseldorf 8 January 1993],[89] assignment of claims [KG Berlin 24 January 1994],[90] assumption of debts [LG Hamburg 26 September 1990],[91] set-off of reciprocal obligations [AG Frankfurt 31 January 1991; OLG Koblenz 17 September 1993],[92] and issues of agency [LG Hamburg 26 September 1990; KG Berlin 24 January 1994].[93]

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FOOTNOTES

* Professor of Law at the University of Bonn, Germany, from 1992 to February 1995. Currently, Professor of Law at the University of Linz, Austria. Address: Institut für Handels-und Wertpapierrecht, Universität Linz, A-4040 Linz-Auhof, Austria, Europe.

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83. CISG, supra note 4, art. 4(a). There are exceptions. For example, Article 29 excludes the doctrine of "consideration." See Honnold, supra note 1, §§ 201, 204.1-204.4. Furthermore, the CISG should prevail over national statutes that declare invalid contracts that cannot be performed at formation (anfängliche Unmöglichkeit). For examples of such laws, see BGB § 306; Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [ABGB] § 878 (Aus.);Schweizerisches Obligationenrecht [OR] art. 20(1) (Switz.). For discussion of the relation between national sales laws and the CISG as to impossibility, see Karollus, supra note 20, at 43; Hans Stoll, Art. 79: Hinderungsgrund außerhalb des Einflußbereichs des Schuldners, in Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht 679, 686 (Ernst von Caemmerer & Peter Schlechtriem eds., 2d ed. 1995). But see Denis Tallon, Article 79, in Commentary on the International Sales Law 572 (C.M. Bianca & M.J. Bonell eds., 1987); Wanki Lee, Exemptions of Contract Liability Under the 1980 United Nations Convention, 8 Dick. J. Int'l L. 375, 386-87 (1990).

84. See, e.g., BGB § 119.

85. This is unlike ULIS, which expressly excludes consideration of non-conforming goods. ULIS, supra note 3, art. 34.

86. See Ulrich Huber, Art. 45: Rechtsbehelfe des Käufers; keine zusätzliche Frist, in Kommentar zum Einheitlichen UN-Kaufrecht 401 (Ernst von Caemmerer & Peter Schlechtriem eds., 2d ed. 1995); Karin Flesch, Mängelhaftung und Beschaffenheitsirrtum beim Kauf 127-58 (1994). Some Austrian authors disagree. See Rudolf Lessiak, UNCITRAL-Kaufrechtsabkommen und Irrtumsanfechtung, 1989 Juristische Blätter [JBl] 487; Karollus, supra note 20, at 41-42.

87. The LG Aachen agreed with this argument. Judgment of May 14, 1993, 1993 RIW at 761.

88. Id.

89. Judgment of Sept. 26, 1990, LG Hamburg, 1991 IPRax 400; Judgment of Jan. 8, 1993, OLG Düsseldorf, 1993 RIW 325.

90. Judgment of Jan. 24, 1994, KG Berlin, 1994 RIW 683.

91. Judgment of Sept. 26, 1990, LG Hamburg, 1991 IPRax at 402.

92. Judgment of Jan. 31, 1991, AG Frankfurt am Main, 1991 IPRax 345; Judgment of Sept. 17, 1993, OLG Koblenz, 1993 RIW at 937.

93. Judgment of Sept. 26, 1990, LG Hamburg, 1991 IPRax at 401; Judgment of Jan. 24, 1994, KG Berlin, 1994 RIW 683. But see infra part IV.1.

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Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated August 16, 1999
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