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Mr Justice Jack has spent a month listening to evidence in a case brought by Taylor Lynne Thomson, daughter of newspaper magnate Lord Thomson of Fleet, against Christie’s and the Marquis of Cholmondeley over her £1.75m purchase of a pair of gilded porphyry urns.

Miss Thomson bought the urns in December 1994 at a showpiece King Street sale of selected contents from Houghton Hall, the Marquis’s Norfolk home.

The central legal argument of the case – whether the urns are genuine 18th century Louis XV originals or later copies – is reasonably straightforward, even if determining their date is not. However, what has concentrated the minds of many in the industry not directly involved in the case is Miss Thomson’s challenge of the terms under which Christie’s sold the vases.

As with other auctioneers up and down the land, Christie’s catalogue included sale terms warning potential buyers that they bid at their own risk and that catalogue descriptions were expressions of opinion only, which could not later be relied on in legal disputes.

Miss Thomson argues that this clause is in breach of the Unfair Contract Terms Act and should be set aside.

If the judge agrees with her on this point, it would create a legal precedent for other disgruntled buyers to sue and would force auctioneers to revise their terms and conditions as set out in their catalogues. Just how they would do this is unclear.

Although no one can second-guess the judge’s ruling, leading industry figures are already thought to be making contingency plans to head off any widespread future difficulties.