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Germany 20 April 1994 Appellate Court Frankfurt (New Zealand mussels case)
[Cite as: http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/cases/940420g1.html]

Primary source(s) for case presentation: Michael R. Will; CISG online case overview; UNCITRAL abstract; Unilex abstract

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Case identification

DATE OF DECISION: 19940420 (20 April 1994)


TRIBUNAL: OLG Frankfurt [OLG = Oberlandesgericht = Provincial Court of Appeal]

JUDGE(S): Unavailable


CASE NAME: German case citations do not identify parties to proceedings

CASE HISTORY: 1st instance LG Darmstadt 22 December 1992 [affirmed]; 3rd instance BGH (Supreme Court) 8 March 1995 [affirming]

SELLER'S COUNTRY: Switzerland (plaintiff)

BUYER'S COUNTRY: Germany (defendant)

GOODS INVOLVED: New Zealand mussels

Case abstract

Germany: OLG Frankfurt 20 April 1994

Case law on UNCITRAL texts (CLOUT) abstract no. 84

Reproduced with permission from UNCITRAL

The plaintiff, a Swiss company, sold New Zealand mussels to the defendant [buyer], a German company. The [buyer] refused to pay because the mussels had been found by the Federal Health Office to be generally not safe because they contained a cadmium concentration in excess of the statutory limit of 0.5 mg/kg. The first instance court ordered the [buyer] to pay. The [buyer] appealed.

The appellate court held that the supply of mussels with higher cadmium composition did not constitute a fundamental breach of contract justifying avoidance of the contract and a refusal of the buyer to pay the purchase price, since the statutory cadmium limit expressed an optimum situation of food items and was not a binding maximum limit. In addition, it was held that the high cadmium composition did not constitute lack of conformity of the mussels with contract specifications under CISG 35(2), since the mussels were still fit for eating.

Moreover, it was held that even if the [buyer] had established faulty packaging of the goods, as referred in the [buyer's] pleadings, the contract could not be avoided. In order to justify avoidance of the contract in these circumstances, faulty packaging must be a fundamental breach of contract; and such a breach must be easily detectable, which would enable the [buyer] to declare avoidance of the contract within a reasonable time after receiving delivery.

The appellate court ordered the [buyer] to pay the purchase price (CISG 78) and interest at the rate of 5%, which is the statutory interest rate under both German and Swiss law.

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Classification of issues present

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


Key CISG provisions at issue: Articles 4 ; 25 ; 26 ; 35 ; 38 ; 39 ; 49(2)(b)(i) ; 78 [Also cited: Articles 7(1) ; 49(1)(a) ]

Classification of issues using UNCITRAL classification code numbers:

4B [Scope of Convention (issues excluded): parties free to choose currency as CISG does not deal with this issue];

25B [Definition of fundamental breach];

26A1 [Effective declaration of avoidance: notice to other party required];

35B2 ; 35B4 [Conformity of goods to contract: fitness for purposes made known to seller; Packaging to protect goods in usual manner for similar goods];

38A [Buyer's obligation to examine goods: time for examining goods];

39A [Requirement to notify seller of lack of conformity: buyer must notify seller within reasonable time];

49B1 [Buyer's loss of right to declare avoidance after delivery: failure to avoid within period required];

78B [Interest on delay in receiving price or any other sum in arrears: rate of interest]

Descriptors: Examination of goods ; Lack of conformity notice, timeliness ; Fundamental breach ; Avoidance ; Conformity of goods ; Interest ; Scope of Convention ; Currency issues

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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=47&step=Abstract>; Forum des Internationalen Rechts/The International Legal Forum (1996) 208-209; Behr, 17 Journal of Law and Commerce (1998) 263 [280] [abstract of interest issues]

French: Revue de Droit des Affaires Internationale (1995) 752-753

Italian: Diritto del Commercio Internazionale (1995) 232 No. 51

Polish: Hermanowski/Jastrzebski, Konwencja Narodow Zjednoczonych o umowach miedzynarodowej sprzedazy towarow (Konwencja wiedenska) - Komentarz (1997) 251-252


Original language (German): cisg-online.ch <http://www.cisg-online.ch/cisg/urteile/125.htm>; Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft (RIW) 1994, 593-595; OLG Report Frankfurt 1994, 135-137; Die deutsche Rechtsprechung auf dem Gebiete des internationalen Privatrechts im Jahre (IPRspr) 1994 No. 34 [80]; Unilex database <http://www.unilex.info/case.cfm?pid=1&do=case&id=47&step=FullText>

Translation: Unavailable


English: Van Alstine, 246 University of Pennsylvania Law Review (1998) 745 n.235 [recourse to legislative history]; Ferrari, International Legal Forum (4/1998) 138-255 [146 n.73 (reliance on legislative history), 230 n.830 (packaging as a lack of conformity)]; Honnold, Uniform Law for International Sales (1999) 95 [reliance on legislative history], 257 [Art. 35]; Behr, 17 Journal of Law and Commerce (1998) 266-288 [abstracts and comments on 29 interest rulings from 10 countries (this case presented at 280)]; Curran, 15 Journal of Law and Commerce (1995) 175-199 [196-198] [English summary of comments by Witz cited below]; Karollus, Cornell Revue of the CISG (1995) 51 [67-68, 71-72] [comments on issues under Articles 35 and 49 in the context of German case law on the CISG]; Koch, Pace Review of Convention on Contracts for International Sale of Goods (1998) 241-242 n.217 [fundamental breach: frustration of purpose of contract]; for analysis of the remedy of avoidance citing this and other cases, go to Kazimierska, Pace Review of the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1999-2000) n.n.187, 424; Spanogle/Winship, International Sales Law: A Problem Oriented Coursebook (West 2000) [conformity of the goods 187-203 (this case at 195-196)]; Bernstein & Lookofsky, Understanding the CISG in Europe, 2d ed., Kluwer (2003) § 2-8 n. 113; § 4-7 n. 94; Article 78 and rate of interest: Mazzotta, Endless disagreement among commentators, much less among courts (2004) [citing this case and 275 other court and arbitral rulings]; [2005] Schlechtriem & Schwenzer ed., Commentary on UN Convention on International Sale of Goods, 2d (English) ed., Oxford University Press, Art. 35 paras. 17, 57

Finnish: Huber/Sundström, Defensor Legis (1997) 747 [759 n.62]

French: Witz, Les premières applications jurisprudentielles du droit uniforme de la vente internationale (L.G.D.J., Paris: 1995) 87-88, 90 n.44, 100-101, 106 n.116

German: Karollus, [österreichisches] Recht der Wirtschaft (öRdW) 1994, 387; Magnus, Zeitschrift für Europäisches Privatrecht (ZEuP) 1995, 202 [210]; Staudinger-Magnus (1994) Art. 25 No. 13; Art. 35 No. 25

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