Law and the Visual Arts Professor Alex Roosa 10/13/06 Cristallina S.A. v. Christie, Manson & Woods Int’l, Inc. 502 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App.Div. 1986) • TT claims that Defs. Intentionally or negligently misrepresented the sums the paintings would bring at auction and failed to advise it of risks inherent in such a sale. Matter before the Ct. is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Cristallina S.A. v. Christie, Manson & Woods Int’l, Inc. 502 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App.Div. 1986) • TT asserts eight causes of action grounded in fraudulent misrepres., negligence, breach of contract,and breach of fiduciary duty. • In essence, TT claims that the auction’s failure was due to Bathurst’s selection of paintings lacking in auction appeal, failure to bring vital information to its attention, Def.’s advice to the public and the media that the value of paint. was substantially less than values given to TT, and the recommendations of reserves in violation of Def.’s public policy of not setting reserves higher than high estimates. Cristallina S.A. v. Christie, Manson & Woods Int’l, Inc. 502 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App.Div. 1986) • Defs. Christies and Bathurst moved for summary judgment, which Special Term granted. App. Ct finds that factual issues exist which bar the granting of summary judgment, reinstates the complaint except for the 5th and 7th causes of action which are based on failure to remit the proceeds from the sale of 2 of the paintings and the violation of section 25 of General Business Law, respectively. Cristallina S.A. v. Christie, Manson & Woods Int’l, Inc. 502 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App.Div. 1986) • Def. concedes it is an agent of the consignor, as agent Def. has a fiduciary duty to act in the utmost good faith and interest of TT, its principal throughout the relationship.When a breach of duty occurs, agent is liable for damages caused to principal, whether the cause of action is based on contract. • As here, when an agent is selected because of its special fitness for the performance of the duties to be undertaken, the principal is entitled to rely on the agent’s judgment and integrity. Cristallina S.A. v. Christie, Manson & Woods Int’l, Inc. 502 N.Y.S.2d 165 (App.Div. 1986) • As further justification for its dismissal of complaint, Ct. found that TT’s claim for damages was speculative. App. Ct notes that the difficulty of ascertaining damages does not exclude their determination. Also finds that claim for punitive damages should also stand at this stage of litigation, as complaint pleads the requisite allegations of recklessness and conscious disregard of TT’s rights. Artist’s Estate When an artist dies, various issues come to light: • An artist often dies leaving unsold works. Administrator of estate must oversee their sale or donation • There may be a claim by an art dealer that it has exclusive contractual right to sell the works. The administrator must review the agreement, see if it is legal. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat N.Y.L.J. Sep. 3, 1991 at 24 (Surr. Ct. 1991) • Adminstrator of estate has moved for summary judgment discmissing the claims Vrej Baghoomian, decedent’s art dealer has asserted against the case. • Baghoomian seeks to (1) enjoin the adminstrator from selling Basquiat works and to enjoin the respondents from interfering with his Kual relations; (2) 20 Mil. in actual damages, 10 Mil in exemplary damages for breach of K and intentional interferences with his K, and (3) 10 Mil. In exemplary damages for injury to his business reputation caused by malicious representations made to customers. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat N.Y.L.J. Sep. 3, 1991 at 24 (Surr. Ct. 1991) • Basquiat’s father, individ. and as adminstrator, and dealer Miller have moved for summary judg. Dismissing Bagh. Claims because the alleged contract with the decedent is barred by the statute of frauds or alternatively, is a consignment which terminated on Basquiat’s death… also contend that claimed ratification by father is unenforceable against estate because it is alleged to have occurred before letters of adminsitration issued. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat N.Y.L.J. Sep. 3, 1991 at 24 (Surr. Ct. 1991) • CT notes that Bag. Kual duties, according to his own description are fiduciary in nature; his claim of an ownership interest in the artwork is not supported by his own version of the terms of the alleged agmt. or by evidence of custom and usage in the trade. • Here, artwork remained in decedent’s possession, there was no sum agreed upon as purchase price and Bag. has presented no evidence of past business custom with Basquiat that would counter general trade practice of consignment agmt. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat N.Y.L.J. Sep. 3, 1991 at 24 (Surr. Ct. 1991) • Ct. also notes that “(a)n executor named is a will has no power to dispose of any part of the estate of the testator before letters testamentary or preliminary letters testamentary are granted except to pay reasonable funeral expenses…” • Bag.’s reliance on alleged telephone conversations with administrator’s attorney is unreasonable. An attorney with general authority c/n bind his client to a waiver or surrender a substantial right. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat N.Y.L.J. Sep. 3, 1991 at 24 (Surr. Ct. 1991) • Bag.’s claim for damages for interference with his K requires that he establish an agreement which survived decedent’s death. He has failed to do so. CT does not have jurisdiction over his claim for damage to reputation caused by respondents because it concerns disputes among living persons and does not relate to the administration of the estate or the affairs of a decedent. This applies also to any claims arising from alleged K with administrator in his individual capacity. • Motion for summary judgment granted.
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