The New York Post reports today on a lawsuit filed in Manhattan over a disputed Picasso drawing. The plaintiff, art dealer Chantal Park, is seeking the $145,000 she paid for the drawing plus $5 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are available for breach of contract in New York only in very rare circumstances, generally involving conduct that's "part of a pattern directed at the public generally," which, on the face of it, doesn't seem to be present here, although, as this longer piece in the Maines Antique Digest points out, one of the defendants "has been tied to the sale of fake artwork in the past":
"[Defendant Biagio 'Luigi'] Cugini has been investigated for trafficking in fake artwork in the past. Cugini and Dr. Vilas Likhite, who was arrested in December 2004 in California for allegedly selling fake art, were codefendants in a federal case in the mid-1980’s involving $600,000 in fake art sold to wealthy art collectors in New York. In the 1985 case, Cugini and Likhite were charged in U.S. District Court in New York with art forgery and fraud involving artists such as Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. The case, however, was dropped."
I posted on Dr. Likhite, a former Harvard Medical School professor, here.