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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Intent: Direct and circumstantial evidence in auction cases


We have used the word, “intent” many times over the years including most notably the “genuine intent to transfer to the highest bidder regardless of price” — in other words, an absolute auction.

So, what is intent? Intent is generally considered the “mental desire and will to act (or not act) in a particular way.” That’s right — mental desire — a state of mind. How do we know one’s intent?

The most notable methods of determining someone’s intent is through direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence might be found by looking at emails, video, pictures, documents and/or other records from one of the participants.

Circumstantial evidence involves other facts which are not directly from an eyewitness or participant and typically requires some reasoning to prove a fact. Such might involve looking at bank accounts, websites, marketing plans and talking to others involved …

In one recent auction case, our team analyzed an abundance of both direct and circumstantial evidence in order to conclude malpractice (and the intent of such) had taken place. As a result just before the trial was to start, the case was (very favorably) settled.

What is the lesson here? Everything that you do as an auctioneer can contribute to your intent to act or behave in a certain fashion — by looking at both direct and circumstantial evidence. If there is any malpractice, it can likely be discovered.

Further, with the Internet and electronic retention of all kinds of media, your history is even more easily accessed — even (and in this case) Facebook and other social media posts. For that matter, my prior writings are also frequently examined.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.

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