Krahmer v. Christie's Inc.

911 A.2d 399 (2006)

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Krahmer v. Christie’s Inc.

Delaware Court of Chancery
911 A.2d 399 (2006)

Facts

Jay Cantor, head of American paintings for Christie’s, Inc. (defendant) visited the Detroit Club to discuss the auction of Interior by Frank Weston Benson. The Detroit Club told Cantor that Interior was acquired directly from Benson in 1914 and that it had been independently appraised as a Benson painting at least three times. All indications were that the painting was authentic, so Christie’s agreed to auction Interior. In 1986, Johannes and Betty Krahmer (plaintiffs) purchased the painting at auction. 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 1999, the Krahmers wrote to the official committee for Benson’s paintings, seeking to have their painting authenticated. Around this time, the Krahmers learned that a Benson painting of the same subject existed in another collection. The Krahmers informed the committee, but the committee indicated that there might be two finished works by Benson of the same subject. In 2002, the Krahmers tried to sell their painting through Sotheby’s auction house, but the Sotheby’s restorer expressed concerns about the painting’s authenticity. For the first time, the Krahmers suspected that there painting might not be authentic, 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. 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 and argued that the statute of limitations on their claim should be tolled because of fraudulent concealment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lamb, J.)

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