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William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers & Auctioneers, Inc. v. Rabizadeh

Court of Appeals of New York

November 13, 2013, Argued; December 17, 2013, Decided

No. 229

Opinion

 [***815]  [*473]  [**978]  Rivera, J.

William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers and Auctioneers, Inc. (Jenack) appeals from an order of the Appellate Division granting defendant Albert Rabizadeh (Rabizadeh) summary judgment, and dismissing the complaint in its entirety. We reverse because the Appellate Division erred in concluding that Jenack failed to comply with the statutory requirement of a writing in support of its breach of contract claim.   

Jenack sells fine art and antiques at public auctions. The underlying dispute arises from Jenack's claim for damages resulting from Rabizadeh's failure to pay for an item offered at a Jenack public auction. The central issue in contention between the parties is whether the sale of the auction item to Rabizadeh is memorialized in a writing that satisfies the statute of frauds.

As is common practice in public auction houses, Jenack permits bidding online and by telephone, or  [****2] "absentee bidding," in addition to traditional in-person bidding, for items numbered and described on its website and in its published auction catalogue. At all times relevant to this appeal, Jenack's website set forth information about the auction process, as well as terms of sales for absentee bidders. The website [***816]  [**979]  stated, under the subsection titled "Bid Forms," that "[i]f you are unable to attend the auction in person, and wish to place absentee bids, we will be happy to bid on your behalf, according to the Terms & Conditions of sale." It further stated that "[y]our credit card guarantees the good will of your bidding!" It informed any and all prospective bidders of payment obligation by stating "if your bid is successful you are legally responsible to make payment according to the terms set forth here."

To facilitate absentee bidding, and in order for Jenack to serve on behalf of an absentee customer, Jenack required the prospective bidder to submit in advance an "Absentee Bid Form" posted on the website. At the top of the form, Jenack [*474]  notified bidders that payment was due within five days of a successful bid. Directly above the signature line, the form included a preprinted notification  [****3] that "[b]ids will not be executed without signature. Signature denotes that you agree to our terms."

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22 N.Y.3d 470 *; 5 N.E.3d 976 **; 982 N.Y.S.2d 813 ***; 2013 N.Y. LEXIS 3447 ****; 2013 NY Slip Op 8373; 2013 WL 6589051

 [1]  William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers and Auctioneers, Inc., Appellant, v Albert Rabizadeh, Respondent.

Prior History: Appeal, by permission of the Court of Appeals, from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department, entered September 19, 2012. The Appellate Division (1) reversed, on the law, a judgment of the Supreme Court, Orange County (Catherine M. Bartlett, J.), entered (a) upon an order of that court (David S. Ritter, J.), which had denied defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and granted plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability for breach of contract, and (b) upon an interlocutory judgment of that court (David S. Ritter, J.), rendered in favor of plaintiff and against defendant on the issue of liability, and which had, after a nonjury trial on the issue of damages, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $402,398; (2) granted defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint; (3) denied plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability; (4) modified the order; (5) vacated the interlocutory judgment; and (6) dismissed the complaint.

William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers & Auctioneers, Inc. v Rabizadeh, 99 AD3d 270, 952 NYS2d 197, 2012 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6146 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't, 2012), reversed.

Disposition:  [****1] Order reversed, with costs, and judgment of Supreme Court, Orange County, reinstated.

CORE TERMS

bid, auction, clerking, sheet, Obligations, seller, summary judgment, bidder, absentee, statute of frauds, documentation, name of the person, buyer, public auction, memorandum, consignor

Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Evidentiary Considerations, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Contracts Law, Statute of Frauds, Commercial Law (UCC), Form, Formation & Readjustment, Formal Requirements, Requirements, Business & Corporate Compliance, Types of Commercial Transactions, Sales of Goods, Auction Sales, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation