Axa Art Insurance Corp.’s Subrogation Lawsuit Seeks $1.5M From Christie’s

August 20, 2013

Axa Art Insurance Corp. filed a subrogation lawsuit claiming that the famed auction house Christie’s in New York failed to properly store a fine art collection that belonged to Axa’s insured, the Piatigorsky Trust, during Superstorm Sandy.

Christie’s, a well-known name in auctions, also provides fine art storage services. In the lawsuit, Axa is accusing Christie’s of grossly negligent acts and is seeking $1.5 million. Axa’s insured, the Piatigorsky Trust, holds the art collection of the late Jacqueline Piatigorsky, a philanthropist and arts patron.

In the complaint, filed last week at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, Axa says that “Christie’s claimed to be the ‘world’s premier storage provider for fine art’ and that it stored its clients’ art in ‘fail safe facilities.'”

But, the lawsuit claims, Christie’s warehouse, “located in a major flood zone in Red Hook, Brooklyn, proved to be quite the opposite when Superstorm Sandy struck.”

“This action seeks recovery for damages to the art collection owned by the Piatigorsky Trust that was caused by the grossly negligent acts (and failures to act) of Christie’s,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit claims that despite clear notice of the severity of Sandy days prior to the landfall, “Christie’s took no action to safeguard the Trust’s art, instead leaving it languishing in a processing area on the ground floor of its warehouse.”

The lawsuit also claims that rather than warn the clients that it was unable to protect their art, Christie’s sent an e-mail that intentionally misrepresented the precautions taken in light of the impending storm in order to convey a false sense of security to its customers. The lawsuit also alleges Christie’s failed to quickly inform the clients of the extent of the damages.

Axa says the Piatigorsky Trust’s art collection stored at Christie’s Brooklyn warehouse suffered in excess of $1.5 million in damages during Sandy and that Axa owes indemnity to the Piatigorsky Trust.

“As a result of Christie’s wanton neglect, plaintiff AXA, the insurer for the Trust, now seeks in excess of $1.5 million in subrogation for the amount owed to its insured,” the complaint states.

The case is Axa Art Insurance Corporation, a/s/o/ Jephta Drachman and Joram Piatigorsky as Trustees of the Jacqueline Piatigorsky Revocable Trust, and the Jacqueline Piatigorsky Revocable Trust, v. Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services Inc., filed at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, Aug. 15, 2013, index no. 652862/2013.

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