Man suing over canceled Michael Jackson auction
A judge ruled today that a collector suing Michael Jackson's estate and an auction house for $5 million over a canceled auction of the singer's memorabilia can take his case to trial, but trimmed some of the allegations in the complaint.
The decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian means a jury will decide Richard LaPointe's causes of action for alleged intentional infliction of contractual relations and breach of contract against Julien's Auction House and the Jackson estate, said plaintiff's attorney Andrew Krastins. The allegations eliminated by the judge included negligent interference with contractual relations, Krastins said.
Krastins hailed the ruling, saying it means his client can seek punitive damages and that the Jackson executors may have to reveal the extent of the estate's assets.
The auction, which would have been the largest authorized sale of items associated with Jackson, was canceled in April 2009 after the singer reached a legal settlement with Julien's Auction House. Jackson died two months later at age 50.
The 1,400 items that were to be auctioned off included Jackson's large collection of antiques, decorative arts, costumes, music awards and other items that were once in his Neverland mansion in Santa Barbara County.
Lapointe filed the lawsuit in October 2009, claiming ownership of 82 items on which he bid online ahead of the auction. He was the only bidder for those items, including a replica classic automobile used by Jackson to provide transportation to celebrity guests at Neverland.
LaPointe also has one of the world's biggest collection of Beatles memorabilia.
case no : BC423284
this was the original news story
A man by the name of Richard Lapointe, the plaintiff in the case, is now suing Jackson’s estate and Julien’s Auction House for at least $5 million dollars for stopping an auction where he placed bids on at least 170 items of Michael Jackson memorabilia. Richard Lapointe stated that he is suing for being emotionally damaged and would like to be compensated for it. He also stated that $5 million dollars is what the estimated total value of the items to be auctioned.
The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court against the two parties named above. Richard Lapointe claims that he was the only bidder on at least 83 items, therefore the highest bidder when the auction was pulled by the Jackson estate and Julien’s Auction House.
The problem arose when the Jackson estate and Julien’s Auction House had difficulties in negotiations but details have not been made clear on exactly what they were having problems agreeing on.
Julian’s Auction House notified Richard Lapointe on April 11th and April 14th to let him know that he was registered and they have received his bids. The next day, Lapointe receives a letter stating that the auction would be cancelled “despite having bids” on the 170 items. However, Richard Lapointe also agreed with the terms of the auction which stated that “the auction could be canceled at any time”.
Richard Lapointe v. Julien’s Auctions, MJJ Productions, et al
Another lawsuit was filed late last year by one of the bidders in the “Collection of Michael Jackson” auction, who claims to have placed bids online prior to the auction being canceled following the settlement between MJJ Productions and Julien’s Auction House.
Richard Lapointe has filed suit against Julien’s Auctions and Darren Julien (along with several aliases), MJJ Productions, Tohme R. Tohme (President of MJJ Productions), Administrators of the Estate of Michael Jackson, and 100 unnamed defendants.
Lapointe seeks the items on which he had placed online absentee bids, or $5 million dollars plus damages.
I have reviewed the First Amended Complaint, filed with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on 12/02/09 (Case No BC423284).
The Plaintiff, Lapointe, makes a number of allegations, and claims to have filed a “Creditor’s Claim” in the Jackson Probate Auction, and:
…seeks the transfer to Plaintiff of all items put up for auction, as described in detail below, for which Plaintiff was the highest bidder, or in the alternative, the sum of $5,000,000, which Plaintiff contends is their present market value and therefore, the amount in which Plaintiff has been injured.
The complaint goes on to make allegations about how the Defendants (Julien’s Auctions and MJJ Productions) “colluded among themselves” and “reached a secret agreement… to conduct a new auction at a time Defendants deem more profitable“.
In the Plaintiff’s causes of action, he claims that the Defendants “acted with malice, fraud or oppression, in conscious and intentional disregard of Plaintiff’s rights“. One of the causes of actions argues a violation of the Unfair Business Practices Act – Business & Professions Code section 17200:
Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that after Defendants scrutinizes the online and absentee bids in the No Reserve Jackson Auction, Defendants colluded to “cancel” the auction in order to reap higher anticipated profits at a later date.
Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon allege, that Defendants performed the above-mentioned acts with the intention and purpose of injuring Plaintiff in the operation of his livlihood and investments, and obtaining an illicit competitive advantage over Plaintiff.
Defendants threaten to, and unless restrained, will secret or disperse the unique Jackson items for which Plaintiff was the highest bidder and will hereby continue to interfere with business relations between Plaintiff and his customers, dealers, traders and fellow collectors, depriving Plaintiff of profits which are rightfully Plaintiff’s.
To those who monitor and participate in major auction house events, a standard disclaimer in the terms of the auction always contain a condition about having no guarantees about the execution of bids as well as reserving the discretion to pull lots from a sale. Below is an excerpt from the Julien’s Auctions website (see juliensauctions.com/terms.html):
Julien’s reserves the right to withdraw any property before the sale and will have no liability for doing so.
We reserve the right to accept or decline any bid. Bids must be for an entire lot and each lot constitutes a separate sale. All bids are per lot unless otherwise announced at a live sale by the auctioneer. Live auction lots will be sold in their numbered sequence unless the Auctioneer directs otherwise. It is unlawful and illegal for Bidders to collude, pool, or agree with another Bidder to pay less than the fair value for lot(s). Bidders participating in both live and online auctions acknowledge that the law provides for substantial penalties in the form of treble damages and attorneys’ fees and costs for those who violate these provisions. For live auctions the auctioneer will have final discretion in the event that any dispute should arise between bidders. The auctioneer will determine the successful bidder, cancel the sale, or re-offer and resell the lot or lots in dispute. Julien’s will have final discretion to resolve any disputes arising after the sale and in online auctions. If any dispute arises our sale record is conclusive. Julien’s will execute order or absentee bids, and accept telephone bids as a courtesy to clients who are unable to attend the live auctions. Therefore we take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in connection with this service.
Subject to fulfillment of all of the conditions set forth herein, on the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer, title to the offered lot will pass to the highest bidder acknowledged by the auctioneer.
In registering to participate in online bidding, one would presume that Julien’s Auctions had all registrants agree to these or similar terms.
I have also reviewed the “Julien Defendants’ Answer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint”, which was filed 01/04/10.
In this answer is a “General Denial, which states:
…Defendants deny, generally and specifically, each and every allegation in the FAC [First Amended Complaint]. The Julien Defendants further deny that Plaintiff has been damaged in any manner, amount, or sum whatsoever, by reason of any act or omission on the part of any of the Julien Defendants or on the part of any of its agents, servants or employees. The Julien Defendants further demand strict proof and evidentiary support for each and every allegation of the FAC.
The response by Julien’s Auctions makes not of California Civil Code 128.7, which involves sanctions against parties and law firms which file frivolous and/or harassing lawsuits that are without merit. The response continues by outlining 45 defenses to the lawsuit, and closes with the following:
WHEREFORE, the Julien Defendants pray for judgment as follows:
1. That Plaintiff take nothing from the Julien Defendants by reason of his FAC;
2. That the FAC against the Julien Defendants be dismissed with prejudice;
3. That the Julien Defendants be awarded costs of suit; and
4. That the Julien Defendants be awarded any othe rand further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
It will be interesting and of relevance to the hobby at large to monitor the outcome of this case, to see if indeed it is dismissed and the Plaintiff is found responsible for the legal costs of the significant number of parties named in the action.