Reversing the appellate court, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that the Miller’s accepted the boat for two reasons: (1) that the purchase agreement and retail installment forms signed by the Millers stated that they had inspected the boat and were satisfied with it, constituting acceptance under 2-606(1)(a); and (2) that the act of signing an application for a temporary registration for the boat constituted an act inconsistent with the seller’s ownership under 2-606(1)(c). The Court observed that the circumstances of the transaction were key to the issue of acceptance:
The Millers did not purchase any vehicle. They purchased a boat during spring in New England. The trial court particularly found that it is not uncommon for buyers to purchase a boat during the off season, deferring delivery until later. Presumably, buyers who wish to take a boat for a test ride prior to accepting delivery will wait until the weather permits that form of inspection before signing contracts in which they represent that they have inspected the boat and found it satisfactory, and before having the boat customized to suit their needs. Buyers who do not wait until warmer weather permits a test ride essentially have weighed the advantages of a more thorough inspection versus the instant satisfaction of purchasing the boat immediately, and relying on a less reliable means of inspection, and opted for the latter.The Court’s conclusions on the workings of 2–606(1)(a) seem to be against precedent and detrimental to the rights of consumers making purchases on forms prepared by sellers. Before reading this case, I would have told my students that it is a generally accepted principle that seller forms reciting that goods are “accepted” are not effective under 2-606 unless there was a sufficient opportunity for a buyer to perform more than a cursory inspection of the goods. Regarding the buyer’s right to inspection of goods, comment 8 to 2-513 provides that inspection is not regarded as a condition to the passing of title. Comment 9 further explains that inspection is the buyer’s “check-up” to see if the goods are conforming and should not be confused with an “examination” of goods at the time of contracting.
The Miller’s examination of the boat in April would seem to be the type of “examination” at the time of contracting that the code contemplates, rather than an inspection. Moreover, a boat that can only be inspected during the winter while out of the water would not seem to amount to more than a cursory inspection. As such, the Millers would have at least until the test ride with the seller on May 27 to accept or reject the boat (and perhaps longer). It seems a curious proposition to deem acceptance at the date of purchase (or payment) when the parties clearly contemplated a test drive later when the weather warmed up in Connecticut. Similarly, it would not seem that merely signing an application for temporary registration presented by the seller would constitute acceptance either. Car dealerships also have consumers sign temporary registrations, but I would not think that this would be acceptance under 2-606 either.
So, the aspect of this case that remains for me here is the Court’s observation that a boat purchased during winter in New England somehow is special. I have doubts about this reasoning. Nevertheless, buyer’s would be wise to exercise caution when purchasing boats during wintertime in Connecticut. I wonder if this decision will put a damper on off-season boat sales?