Energy executive and wine collector William Koch's lawyers were back in federal court Monday. Koch's team has refiled his lawsuit against German wine dealer Hardy Rodenstock over several bottles of 18th century first-growth Bordeaux supposedly bottled for Thomas Jefferson. Koch purchased four of the bottles in 1988, and after a lengthy investigation of their authenticity, decided they were fakes and filed suit against Rodenstock last summer.
Initially, Rodenstock refused to defend himself, arguing that the court had no jurisdiction over him. A summary judgment was later handed down, but Federal Judge Barbara S. Jones dismissed the case in January, arguing that Koch's "allegations are insufficient to warrant this court's assertion of jurisdiction over [Rodenstock]." Rodenstock lives near Munich; Koch lives in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In Koch's amended complaint, he argues that the court has jurisdiction because the matter involves damages exceeding $75,000 and the defendant lives overseas. Federal code says that any district court has jurisdiction when the damages exceed that amount and one party resides overseas. Jones' dismissal said that statute did not apply in this case, however, and that Koch had to prove Rodenstock was regularly engaged in business in New York. Koch argues that three of the wines were hand-delivered to him in New York City, and that another bottle he claims was a fraudulent Rodenstock wine—a magnum of Chateau Pétrus 1921—he bought at a Zachys auction in New York.
"New York is the locus of the wine-auction trade," said Brad Goldstein, Koch's spokesman. "We filed in New York because three of the four bottles were delivered there and the 1921 Pétrus was sold and purchased there."
Koch is also exploring filing additional suits against auction houses and Rodenstock, possibly in other venues, according to Goldstein. "Bill has vowed to follow all of the leads in this global mystery," he said. Koch has already filed a separate suit against Zachys in New York. But Goldstein denied recent British news reports that Koch plans to file a suit against Rodenstock in London.
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