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Mandarin Trading Ltd. v. Wildenstein

Court of Appeals of New York

January 5, 2011, Argued; February 10, 2011, Decided

No. 10


 [***467]  [*176]  [**1106]    Jones, J.

In a dispute arising from the purchase and sale of the painting Paysage aux Trois Arbres by Paul Gauguin, this Court is asked to determine whether claims sounding in fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment were properly pleaded in   the plaintiff's complaint.

In July 2000, J. Amir Cohen approached plaintiff Mandarin Trading Ltd. 1  to solicit interest in the purchase of the painting for investment purposes. Cohen explained that he could arrange a transaction for the sale and subsequent resale of the painting at an auction. Mandarin was interested in the opportunity, but sought (1) an appraisal of the painting, (2) a report of its condition, and (3) a report of its prior ownership. Cohen agreed to obtain the requested information and recommended defendant  [*177]  Guy Wildenstein, an allegedly renowned expert on Gauguin, for the appraisal.

On July 28, 2000, Wildenstein presented a written appraisal letter to Michel Reymondin, which stated that the painting was worth $ 15 million to $ 17 million. Neither Reymondin's role in the transactions, nor his relationship to the parties is pleaded. [**1107]   [***468]  Furthermore, the letter is addressed solely to Reymondin and neither indicates the purpose of the letter nor who requested the valuation of the painting. While the letter revealed that the painting was part of Mrs. Arthur Lehman's collection and was once sold by Wildenstein, it did not disclose any contemporaneous ownership interest. Mandarin received the letter, the complaint does not say from whom, on August 12, 2000.

On August 9, 2000, Cohen contacted and informed Mandarin that if the painting was purchased expeditiously, it could be sold at auction through Christie's at an optimum price. Christie's had outlined the logistics of the auction in a letter to Cohen in which Christie's proposed to hold an auction for the painting in New York with a reserve price of $ 12 million—a price below which the painting would not sell. Christie's estimated that the painting  [****3] could sell for $ 12 million to $ 16 million.

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16 N.Y.3d 173 *; 944 N.E.2d 1104 **; 919 N.Y.S.2d 465 ***; 2011 N.Y. LEXIS 114 ****; 2011 NY Slip Op 741

 [1]  Mandarin Trading Ltd., Appellant, v Guy Wildenstein et al., Respondents.

Prior History: Appeal from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department, entered August 18, 2009. The Appellate Division, with two Justices dissenting, affirmed an order of the Supreme Court, New York County (Emily Jane Goodman, J.; op 17 Misc 3d 1118[A], 851 NYS2d 71, 2007 NY Slip Op 52059[U]), which had granted a motion by defendants to dismiss the complaint.

Mandarin Trading Ltd. v Wildenstein, 65 AD3d 448, 884 NYS2d 47, 2009 NY App Div LEXIS 6068 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep't, 2009), affirmed.

Disposition:  [****1] Order affirmed, with costs.


painting, parties, appraisal, pleadings, unjust enrichment, allegations, misrepresentation, ownership, negligent misrepresentation, special relationship, fraudulent, auction, induce, fails

Civil Procedure, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Torts, Fraud & Misrepresentation, Actual Fraud, Elements, Pleadings, Heightened Pleading Requirements, Fraud Claims, Nondisclosure, Negligent Misrepresentation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Elements of Contract Claims, Contracts Law, Third Parties, Beneficiaries, Claims & Enforcement, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Quasi Contracts