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Gallery sued by Gateway co-founder says plaintiff had ‘buyer’s remorse’

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Written by ACN Staff   
Monday, 07 March 2011 11:29

SANTA FE, N.M. (ACNI) – Gerald Peters Gallery, the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Gateway computer company co-founder Norman Waitt Jr., has responded to the March 4, 2011 Associated Press article regarding the litigation.

The Associated Press story, which appeared on Auction Central News as well as many other publications, stated that a New Mexico judge had ruled Waitt could move forward with his lawsuit against the Peters gallery.

In his complaint, Waitt contends that a circa-1821 painting he bought from Peters in February 2008 for $1.2 million, a depiction of a buffalo standing in a river, is actually worth only one-sixth of what he paid for it.

According to an article in the Feb. 17, 2011 edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican, Waitt claims he had an unwritten agreement with the Peters gallery that allowed him to “(live) with” paintings and return them if he did not wish to keep them.

The Peters gallery’s attorneys, Joe McClaugherty and Jere Kathryn Smith, argued that Waitt's complaint amounts to "buyer's remorse.''

Denise Greenlaw Ramonas, chief of staff of The Peters Corporation (Gerald Peters Gallery), has provided Auction Central News with a written response prepared in consultation with the attorneys representing Peters in the court case. Their verbatim statement follows:

“Film producer and Gateway Computer founder, Norman Waitt Jr. is suing Gerald Peters Gallery for the third time. The subject of the lawsuit is a very rare Samuel Seymour oil painting. Twice, almost identical lawsuits filed by Waitt against Peters and the [Gerald]  Peters Gallery have been dismissed; one in New York for lack of jurisdiction and one [that languished] for lack of prosecution.

On March 2, a judge in Santa Fe ruled that this third suit will continue. Courts are required to give a plaintiff every benefit of the doubt and provide him with an opportunity to develop his case. It is rare for a court to dismiss a case at this early stage, and therefore not surprising that the Court has allowed the plaintiff to proceed. At this early stage, the Court has only the unsupported facts alleged by Mr. Waitt (and his lawyer).  As the case proceeds, the facts will be developed and the Gallery will demonstrate that the facts simply do not lend credence to Mr. Waitt’s claims. Norman Waitt is a man who wants what he wants when he wants it and is accustomed to getting it. This is a frivolous lawsuit and a case of buyer’s remorse taken to the extreme.

“Mr. Waitt alleges that he bought paintings from the Gerald Peters Gallery but that he could bring them back any time he wanted to; trade them for other paintings any time he wanted to; and return them and get his money back any time he wanted to.

The Gallery has made Mr. Waitt offers to trade the painting or to take it on consignment and sell it with no commission, but Mr. Waitt and his battery of lawyers want only one thing—a check for the full purchase price and they want it right away—or they are filing lawsuits regardless of how frivolous or unsubstantiated the claims.

When this Samuel Seymour oil painting became available, the Gerald Peters Gallery acquired it with the intention of offering it to another client who collects this caliber and genre of art. ‘This is a very rare painting and it takes a sophisticated collector to understand this painting’s importance,’ Mr. Peters said.

Norm Waitt is the client of one of the Gallery’s sales directors, [who] dealt with Mr. Waitt on an ongoing basis beginning in mid-2006. Mr. Peters was not involved in most of the sales’ history and barely knows Mr. Waitt. The two men only met a few times. The sales director was with Mr. Waitt the day he bought the Seymour painting and Mr. Peters only dropped into their meeting for a very short period.

This dispute did not come to the Gallery’s attention until the economic downturn. In 2008 and 2009, selling this painting, and most others, would have been difficult. However, in 2010 Mr. Waitt’s litigation strategy has probably cost him several opportunities to sell the painting if his objective was genuinely to sell the painting.

The Gerald Peters Gallery warrants title and authenticity. Mr. Waitt makes no claim challenging either and he has no basis to a refund on demand. No gallery can guarantee future value.

Samuel Seymour is one of the rarest expeditionary artists. A painting of this quality, by this artist, from this period is very rare. Seymour pre-dates the more well-known exploratory artists Karl Bodmer, George Catlin and Alfred Jacob Miller. In 1819, Seymour was asked to join Major Stephen H. Long on his expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory. Long’s expedition was the first to include a trained artist to keep a visual record of the vast landscape of the Rocky Mountains they encountered. Other than the acquisition made by the Gallery, we are unaware of another one selling on the open market.

Each artist’s work is a distinct art market, and Seymour is an esoteric market. The Gerald Peters Gallery only knows of this Seymour oil and one other.

Mr. Waitt’s lawyer made the implausible statement that our Gallery, which is in the business of selling art, would always say, ‘you can bring it back for a refund’ in direct contradiction of the written terms and conditions of a sale or agreement. The Gerald Peters Gallery sells art; it doesn’t rent art. It only occasionally lends art.

The Gerald Peters Gallery values our clients, the artists and estates we represent and our reputation. Most of our collectors and artists value their relationship with us as well. The Gerald Peters Gallery does not create disagreements with clients, most of whom are knowledgeable collectors. We have thousands of clients and enter into approximately 1,500 transactions a year. When clients experience a change in financial circumstances or have other problems, we work with them.”

Postscript:

Auction Central News takes no stand in this case and has published the statement provided by Gerald Peters Gallery in an effort to present a fair and balanced forum for its readers. Auction Central News will continue to publish updates on this case as they become available.

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Last Updated on Monday, 07 March 2011 15:02
 
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