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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Shipper On the Hook for Missing Warhol Box

(CN) — An art shipping company that sent 10 Andy Warhol prints without their original box is not entitled to a contractual limit on damages, a New York appeals court ruled.

Heather James Jackson LLC owns an art gallery in Wyoming. It arranged a client's purchase of 10 Marilyn Monroe silkscreens created by Warhol. The artist himself had also selected and labeled a special box for the collection.

Heather James was set to receive the prints from Day & Meyer, Murray & Young Corp., which stores and ships fine art.

Before Day & Meyer received the prints from Sotheby's auction house, Heather James emailed the shippers to send the Warhol prints to Wyoming "along with the original box the prints came in."

Heather James received the prints, but not the box, so it took Day & Meyer to court.

Day & Meyer asked the trial court for a summary judgment, limiting Heather James' damages to those specified in the contracts.

The trial court denied the motion, and the Manhattan-based First Department New York Appellate Division affirmed in an unsigned Sept. 22 decision.

"Contrary to the motion court's conclusion that gross negligence on defendant's part would deprive defendant of the benefit of the contractual limitation on its liability, the only circumstance that would render the contractual limitation inapplicable in this case is defendant's conversion of the original box," the justices wrote.

The opinion continues, "Although defendant proffered a non-conversion explanation for its failure to return the box to plaintiff, the evidence it submitted fails to demonstrate the truth of that explanation for summary judgment purposes."

Heather James was sued in California in 2013 by the client, One Sweet Dreams LLC, which bought the Warhol prints for $1.65 million. One Sweet Dreams claimed that the lack of the original box reduced the collection's value by almost $250,000.

"The opinion is fact driven, but the fact that [Day & Meyer] threw anything away is certainly extraordinary," said Bill Pinzler, attorney for Heather James.

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