Friday, April 27, 2007

Victory for Christie's

The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal, on statute of limitations grounds, of a lawsuit brought by a couple who purchased a painting from Christie's in 1986 that they later learned was inauthentic. The AP story is here. The decision is here, though all it does is adopt the reasoning of the lower court decisions, here and here. That court had held that the cause of action accrued when they purchased the painting in 1986, and therefore Delaware's three-year statute of limitations expired in 1989 (though by contract Christie's extended the warranty period to six years). And it noted:

"A prudent purchaser of valuable art can readily safeguard his investment by verifying its authenticity with an independent third-party appraisal. Such prudence is especially advisable when art is purchased at auction. The sale price at auction inherently reflects a greater risk of authenticity than if the buyer purchased the work directly from the artist or from a gallery representing an artist. Truly, had they exercised reasonable due diligence, the [plaintiffs] could have discovered that the painting might not be a genuine work ... well within the limitations period and certainly within the six-year warranty period. They failed to do so and now ask Christie's to produce evidence and refresh its memory as to the sale of the painting that took place over 18 years ago. This is precisely the type of case which the statute of limitations ... seeks to prevent."