Redhibition – Protecting Consumers Since Roman Times | Nordgren Law: Automotive Litigation and Lemon Law

Louisiana’s Redhibition laws protect consumers from products that, unknown to the consumer, contain hidden defects. These laws are a cornerstone of Louisiana’s sales law and of her basic civil law principles.

Redhibition was first seen in Louisiana Law in the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808, before the state formally became a part of the United States in 1812. This early Code Article Number 66 stated that “the seller is bound to declare to the buyer the defects of the thing sold, as far as they are known to him, and if he does not do it, the sale shall be cancelled or the price shall be diminished according to the kind of defects, and the seller shall be liable to damages towards the buyer…”.

The story often goes that much of Louisiana’s Civil Law heritage is owed to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Code Civil des Français. However, the roots of Redhibition Law run far deeper than to the famed French Emperor. In fact, traces of Redhibition span to the time of the Roman Empire.

In those ancient times, this principal of restoring the buyer to the price he paid for a defective product was applied mostly to the sale of livestock and other animals. These foundational laws protected unwitting buyers from livestock they had purchased which, unknown to them, contained disease or other undesirable qualities, such as a propensity to kick.

The principle then was the same as it is now. When a buyer makes a purchase of a thing which contains hidden defects, the parties to the sale – the buyer and the seller – should be restored to the financial position they were in before the sale occurred. Just as the ancient Roman farmer would be restored to the purchase price of an ornery mule, a modern Louisianan should be restored to the purchase price of a defective motor vehicle.