Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Weschler’s Can’t Pass the Blame for Auction Gaffe

(CN) - Weschler's auction house could be liable for selling a Ralph Lauren furniture collection, sent over by a storage company, for a fraction of its value, a federal judge ruled.

While Anne Cronin was renovating her house, she stored $100,000 worth of Ralph Lauren furnishings with Prosperi Co.

In August 2012, Prosperi notified Cronin that she had an unpaid bill of $8,913.62 and that it would auction off her belongings the next day at Adam A. Weschler & Son.

Founded in 1890, Weschler's touts itself as the only auction house in Washington.

Cronin says she immediately paid the bill and spoke with Tom Weschler, the auction house's president, who promised to call off the sale.

Nevertheless, Weschler's sold 37 lots of Cronin's furniture the next day for a total of $14,760, far less than what she paid for them, and she sued the auction house in federal court.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg preserved most of the complaint. The 11-page ruling shoots down Weschler's argument that Cronin's case must be dismissed because she failed to join Prosperi as a necessary party.

Citing D.C. Circuit precedent, Boasberg said: "an absent party [is] not required for purposes of Rule 19 where the party seeking joinder need[s] evidence from the absent party to support its defense."

"Cronin's call to Tom Weschler to block the sale constitutes a demand for her property's return," he added. "Defendant's decision to conduct the auction of plaintiff's property, 'without proper claim or authority to do so,' may constitute a conversion."

The judge dismissed only a claim under the District of Columbia's Consumer Protection Procedures Act, noting that Cronin does not meet the statutory definition of a consumer since she never sought any goods or services from Weschler & Son.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.