Date: 17.12.1996
Country: France
Number: 2205 D
Court: Cour de Cassation
Parties: Ceramique Culinaire de France S.A. v. Musgrave Ltd.
An Irish buyer and a French producer of cooking pottery concluded a contract for the sale of baking dishes (cake pans, soufflé pans and plotters). Having received complaints from his own customers that the dishes had no resistance to high temperatures and broke when used in ovens, the buyer declared the contract avoided, invoking to that purpose CISG's provisions on lack of conformity, and claimed damages.

The Court of first instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg, 17-11-1993) rejected the buyer's claim on the ground of French domestic law. The buyer appealed, arguing that the matter should be decided on the basis of CISG, under Art. 1(1)(b) CISG.

The Court of appeal (Cour d'Appel de Colmar, 26-09-1995) held that CISG was not applicable as the parties had expressly chosen French law to govern their contract, thus excluding the application of the Convention by virtue of Art. 6 CISG.

Finding for the buyer, the Court of appeal declared the contract avoided on the ground that the dishes, which for their shape were destined to be used in traditional and microwave ovens, presented defects in their making which caused them to be unfit for said purpose and thus non conforming.

The Supreme Court annulled the appellate court's decision, on the ground that the Court of appeal had based its decision on French domestic law rather then on CISG.

Making express reference to Art. 35(2)(a) CISG, the Supreme Court held that, when goods are unfit for the purpose for which they are to be used, under the Convention they do not conform with the contract; whereas under French domestic law said unfitness amounts to a hidden defect ('vice caché') which is distinguished from a seller's delivery of non-conforming goods.