A federal appeals court has dismissed Bill Koch's lawsuit against auction house Christie's International regarding the infamous "Jefferson Bordeauxs." A three-judge panel of the second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Koch failed to conduct timely due diligence when doubts were first raised about the wine's authenticity, saying the statute of limitations has effectively passed for the lawsuit. The ruling upholds a decision by U.S District Judge Barbara Jones.
Koch’s suit against Christie's is part of his six-year campaign against counterfeit wines being sold to collectors. Koch, a Florida energy executive who spent more than $12 million amassing a 40,000-bottle cellar beginning in the late 1980s, has spent several million dollars suing wine merchants and auction houses over alleged counterfeits.
Koch filed suit against Christie's in 2010. The London-based auction house sold the first of Hardy Rodenstock’s "Jefferson Bordeauxs," and Koch alleged in his suit that the credibility of Christie’s, and the reputation of the former head of its wine department, Michael Broadbent, induced him to buy four of the Jefferson Bordeauxs through other merchants. He also alleged that he had uncovered evidence that Christie’s had systematically ignored evidence it was selling counterfeit wines. Koch alleged that he had bought a bottle of wine Christie's represented as 1870 Lafite because he believed it was a fake, and then had it tested in a lab, where researchers found Cesium isotopes that prove the wine came from after 1952.
But Judge Jones rejected Koch’s claim regarding the 1870s Lafite, because he had bought it despite believing it was fake. And she said he waited too long after doubts about the Jefferson Bordeauxs' authenticity began to surface in 2000, beginning his investigation of their provenance in 2005.
Writing for the three-judge appeals panel, District Judge John G. Koeltl said, "For wine, timing is critical. The same is true for causes of action."
A spokesman for Koch said he is exploring appealing for a hearing by the appeals court's entire nine-judge panel. But he admitted he faces an uphill battle on this case. "They got away with it on a technicality," said Brad Goldstein. "Christie's and Michael Broadbent pulled off an elaborate hoax."
Koch is still pursuing his other pending lawsuits against Acker Merrall and Condit, accused counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan and wine collector Eric Greenberg.
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — October 8, 2012 8:29pm ET
John Lahart — New York NY — October 11, 2012 8:38am ET
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