A New York federal judge has denied an attempt by a wine collector to dismiss a fraud lawsuit brought by William Koch.
In an 31 October ruling, Judge Barbara Jones said Florida collector Koch is entitled to seek punitive damages from major California collector Eric Greenberg.
The ruling said Koch alleged that ‘when Greenberg decided to sell part of his collection’ he ‘approached Sotheby’s.’
Koch said that when Sotheby’s wine department inspected the cellar they found many of his bottles were counterfeit. Sotheby’s declined to auction Greenberg wines.
Koch said Greenberg then hired William Edgerton, a noted assessor, to check his holdings, and Edgerton ‘confirmed Sutcliffe’s conclusion that some of the wine was counterfeit.’
Despite these findings, Koch asserted, Greenberg consigned fakes to Zachys.
After Koch bought Greenberg bottles for US$228,603 at a 2005 auction, he concluded that seven were ‘counterfeit’ and four ‘possibly counterfeit.’
Greenberg later sent Koch a $272,555 check to cover the purchase, 9% interest and $1,000 in court costs.
The check wasn’t cashed, and the wine wasn’t returned. Asked why, Brad Goldstein, Koch’s spokesman replied, ‘In what country does the defendant get to decide the verdict, the penalty and the damages?’
A Greenberg lawyer, Anthony Coles, told decanter.com: ‘The allegations in the lawsuit are false, and Mr Greenberg expects to prevail in court. It’s hard to imagine a lawsuit as wasteful as this one.
‘Mr Koch was offered a full refund so that the wine could be used to support a charity wine tasting to benefit children. Rather than accept a generous, public-spirited solution, Mr Koch, a billionaire, is financing a pointless claim.
‘The only finding this case could show is that Mr Greenberg and Mr Koch were victims of wine counterfeiters.’
Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York