CAVEAT (Latin for “let him beware,” from cavere), in law, a notice given by the party interested (caveator) to the proper officer of a court of justice to prevent the taking of a certain step without warning. It is entered in connexion with dealings in land registered in the land registry, with the grant of marriage licences, to prevent the issuing of a lunacy commission, to stay the probate of a will, letters of administration, &c. Caveat is also a term used in United States patent law (see Patents).
Caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) is a maxim which implies that the responsibility for making a bad bargain over a purchase rests on the purchaser. In an ordinary contract for the sale of goods, there is no implied warranty or condition as to the quality or fitness for any particular purpose of the goods supplied, with certain exceptions, and, therefore, the buyer takes at his own risk. The maxim does not apply (a) where the buyer, expressly or by implication, makes known to the seller the particular purpose for which the goods are required, so as to show that the buyer relies on the seller’s skill or judgment, and that the goods are of a description which it is in the course of the seller’s business to supply; (b) where goods are bought by description from a seller who deals in goods of that description, for there is an implied condition that the goods are of merchantable quality, though if the buyer has actually examined the goods, there is no implied condition as regards defects which the examination ought to have revealed; (c) where the usage of trade annexes an implied warranty or condition to the goods as to their quality or fitness for a particular purpose. The maxim of caveat emptor is said to owe its origin to the fact that in early times sales of goods took place principally in market overt. (See further Sale of Goods.)