A press release posted May 17, by Fine Art Registry (FAR) completely distorts the outcome of a recent Federal trial. The jury in Park West Gallery vs. Fine Art Registry made no findings whatsoever on the authenticity of artwork sold by Park West Gallery, including works by Salvador Dali.
On May 11, Park West Gallery filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and For A New Trial requesting Judge Zatkoff overturn the jury’s decision or grant a new trial based on misconduct on the part of Fine Art Registry and its counsel. During the trial, Judge Zatoff described it as “a total disaster…and it’s basically on the part of the defense.” The Court further described the actions of the defense counsel as “ignoring my evidentiary rulings and acting, in my opinion, with disrespect toward the Court…I believe that these violations are intentional. I have been on the bench thirty-two years and I have never seen anything like this.”
The posting by FAR of this blatant misrepresentation in the form of a “press release” ignores this pending motion and is a further example of FAR’s continuing defamation campaign against Park West Gallery.
Park West attorneys Young & Susser will be filing the FAR press release with the US Federal District Court in Michigan.
About the Trial
In April a jury found that there was no defamation on the part of either plaintiff or defendant in the case of Park West Gallery vs. Fine Art Registry. A jury decision related to a trademark infringement fine under the Lanham Act—which has nothing to do with authenticity—is under review and Park West is confident it will be overturned.
“Although not the central issue of this defamation case, this trial gave us the opportunity to reaffirm the authenticity of Park West’s artwork, which was defended compellingly by our witnesses,” said Rodger Young, lead counsel for Park West Gallery. The court accepted without reservation the qualifications of the three expert witnesses presented by Park West: Bernard Ewell, American Society of Appraisers and Daniel David, publisher and copyright holder of the Divine Comedy by Salvador Dali as well as retired FBI Art Crime Team agent Robert Wittman, who formed the FBI art crime team and presented expert testimony on art fraud as well as practices and procedures within the art industry.
During the trial, FAR attempted to present three experts on authenticity of art and signatures. None of the three had previously been accepted as experts in any court of law. Two of them—Nicholas Descharnes and Roy Saper—were totally rejected by the court as hand-writing experts and were determined to have no expertise in the authenticity of graphic art or signatures. The third, Frank Hunter, although accepted by the court subject to cross examination as an expert in graphic art, admitted at his deposition and at trial that he was not an expert on signatures. Their expert witnesses presented an uncompelling account, which the jury rejected, as FAR’s defamation claims against Park West were rejected in totality.
During the trial FAR’s attorneys and witnesses were cited twelve times for violating the court’s rulings regarding the presentation of evidence. Seven of the violations were by the attorneys themselves. On the second violation, Donald Payton, lead counsel for FAR, was told by U.S. Federal Judge Lawrence Zatkoff that he believed that the violation was intentional. On the twelfth violation, Judge Zatkoff imposed a $5000 sanction against Jonathan Schwartz, another of FAR’s attorneys. “Despite the best efforts by the court, the harm could not be undone,” said Rodger Young, lead counsel for Park West Gallery, “Also, we believe the jury’s award to FAR for a Lanham act violation had no basis in the evidence presented at trial. The jury incorrectly determined that Park West Gallery violated the trademark of FAR on a website allegedly owned by Park West, which Park West did not own and has never owned.”