US Court of Appeals Dismisses William Koch’s Bid to Reinstate Counterfeit Wine Suit

Bloomberg have reported that Billionaire collector William Koch lost his bid to reinstate a lawsuit against Christie’s International Plc that claimed the auction house “induced” him to buy counterfeit wine, an appeals court ruled:

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan Thursday upheld a 2011 ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones dismissing Koch’s suit after finding that he waited too long to sue. The appeals court agreed that the statute of limitations had expired.

For wine, timing is critical,” wrote U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, who was sitting on the appeals court for the case. “The same is true for causes of action.”

Koch has previously filed cases against others claiming they sold him counterfeit wine, marked “Th.J.,” that had purportedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

In the Christie’s case, which Koch filed in Manhattan in 2010, he said he bought a bottle of 1870 Lafite for $4,200 at a Christie’s auction in order to prove it was counterfeit, adding that London-based Christie’s sold him counterfeit wine “for many years.”

Koch also said that Christie’s had previously auctioned other Th.J. bottles owned by Hardy Rodenstock, a German wine dealer and former pop music manager, and that he was induced into buying them from Rodenstock because Christie’s described the wines “positively” in auction catalogs during the 1980s.

In dismissing the case last year, Jones noted that Koch knew the bottles were counterfeit and said he was induced to buy the wine not by the alleged fraud but by a “desire to gather evidence against Christie’s.”

Christie’s got away with an incredible hoax,” Brad Goldstein, a Koch spokesman, said in a telephone interview. “We’ll examine what we can do but there are several factual problems with this ruling. Christie’s behavior in the wine auction market needs closer scrutiny.”

Jonathan Lerner, a lawyer for Christie’s, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment about the ruling.

Koch said in his complaint that auction houses like Christie’s “look the other way” and sell counterfeit wine so as not to lose the consignment to a competitor. He said Christie’s employs boilerplate warnings in its catalogs telling buyers that wine bottles are sold “as is.”

The case is Koch v. Christie’s, 10-cv-2804, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), and 11-522, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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