The Courthouse news reports
To read the March 16th Courthouse news article, click HERE.Park West responded with a motion to dismiss. The gallery argued that the claims failed because the plaintiffs could not prove Park West owed them separate and distinct duties beyond the terms of the original sales contracts, which the gallery says included an express provision limiting its liability.
The gallery also challenged some of the plaintiffs based on arbitration provisions contained in their contracts to buy artworks.
Judge Wendy Potts in Oakland County found those arbitration provisions valid. She also ruled that the plaintiffs could not proceed all together in a single case, and must file their claims separately.
"The facts of each purchase is going to differ significantly from the facts of all the other purchases," said the judge. "There may be common issues of law, but there are also issues or legal theories that will apply to some of the plaintiffs, but not others ... because these claims are improperly joined, the court orders that the remaining claims be severed and the plaintiffs proceed separately."
As a result, plaintiff lawyer Payton recently filed a series of separate complaints, called amended complaints.
In those amended complaints, the plaintiffs claim the defendants sell phony art, accompanied by forged certificates of authenticity, on cruise ships, land auctions and at Park West's gallery in Michigan.
Plaintiff Mattie King, for example, says the defendants sold her 100 phony Dali prints. "Plaintiff was left with works which are worthless, and certainly fall below the purchase and appraisal prices," according to her complaint.
She accuses the defendants of "misrepresenting the authenticity of the artwork verbally and in writing, falsely claiming that the signatures were from the artist, providing doctored and fraudulent provenance of artwork, and by creating and providing fraudulent appraisals."
Her complaint adds, "Park West is notorious for selling fraudulent, forged, misrepresented, fake, and grossly overprices artwork to unsuspecting customers on cruise ships, at land auctions, and from its gallery located in Southfield, Michigan."
In a footnote, she says a grand jury is investigating the gallery. "Law enforcement agents have confirmed that a federal grand jury has been impaneled, under the direction of Assistant United States Attorney Sheldon Light, to investigate criminal activities by defendant Park West Galleries Inc.," says King's complaint.