Krahmer v. Christie's Inc.

903 A.2d 773 (2006)

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Krahmer v. Christie’s Inc.

Delaware Court of Chancery
903 A.2d 773 (2006)

Facts

Christie’s, Inc. (defendant) offered a painting purportedly by Frank Weston Benson for sale. In December 1986, Johannes and Betty Krahmer (plaintiffs) purchased the painting. The terms of the sale included a six-year warranty of authenticity. Even though Christie’s had removed its representation of the painting’s origin prior to the sale to the Krahmers, Christie’s told the Krahmers that the painting had been purchased directly from Benson by the Detroit Club of Michigan and gave them a nameplate stating that the painting had belonged to the Detroit Club. In 1990, Christie’s confirmed the painting’s authenticity. In 1999, the Krahmers wrote to the official committee for Benson’s paintings, seeking to have their painting listed as authentic. Around this time, the Krahmers learned that a Benson painting of the same subject existed in the collection of the New Britain Art Museum. The Krahmers informed the committee, but the committee indicated that there might be two finished works by Benson of the same subject so the Krahmers’ painting was not necessarily inauthentic. In 2002, the Krahmers tried to sell their painting through Sotheby’s auction house, but when the painting was sent to a restorer, the restorer expressed concerns about the painting’s authenticity. For the first time, the Krahmers suspected that there painting might not be an authentic painting by Benson, which they told to Christie’s. Christie’s and the Krahmers agreed to have the committee determine whether the painting was authentic. In 2003, the committee opined that the Krahmers’ painting was a fake because the Krahmers version was missing a pearl necklace on one of the models. The Krahmers asked Christie’s to rescind the 1986 sale. Christie’s refused because the six-year warranty period had expired in 1992. In 2004, the Krahmers filed a petition for rescission of the sale by Christie’s based on fraud. After the pretrial process was well underway, the Krahmers filed a motion for leave to amend their complaint to add allegations of mutual mistake, negligent misrepresentation, and constructive fraud. Christie’s opposed the motion, arguing all of the Krahmers’ claims were time barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lamb, J.)

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