Friday, September 21, 2012

"The case has attracted attention in part because of e-mails and other documents that have been made public, revealing frank details of how the painting was offered to a collector" (UPDATED)

The NYT's Randy Kennedy reports that Jan Cowles's suit against Gagosian Gallery has survived a motion to dismiss.  More later after I've had a chance to read the decision.

UPDATE:  Okay, I've had a chance to read the decision.  It's a motion to dismiss, so technically all the court decided was that, if you assume everything in the complaint is true, it states a claim for relief.  But you are left with the feeling that Judge Ramos is a little alarmed by the picture the complaint presents.  He let the fraud claim stand because, even though this is a "sophisticated plaintiff" -- the gallery argued that Cowles's son Charles "is himself an art dealer and had access to the same information and resources concerning the condition of the Work" -- whether his reliance on the gallery was reasonable is nevertheless "fact-intensive."  The breach of fiduciary duty claim survived because the gallery "purportedly disclosed to the buyer ... that [Charles] was in 'terrible straights' and invited him to make a 'cruel and offensive offer' in order to ... capitalize on his misfortune, while concealing information that was material to his interests" -- and, if true, that is "conduct that would constitute a breach of fiduciary duty."  He even left in the demand for punitive damages, which are only available "where there is a showing of conduct exhibiting a conscious disregard of rights or a high degree of moral turpitude."

Felix Salmon had some thoughts on the case back when it was first filed here.

The Art Market Monitor responded here:  "Remember that this is January of 2009. The world is in the depths of the credit crisis. The bubble has burst and the entire financial class is bracing for what might be a near collapse. Credit markets remain frozen and equity markets are approaching a bottom. All asset classes have correlated and are falling sharply. This may be the most important point about the entire saga. The art market’s spectacular recovery is still unforeseeable."