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Christen Sveaas v. Christie's Incorporated

December 22, 2011

CHRISTEN SVEAAS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHRISTIE'S INCORPORATED, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Swain, J.).

11-2064-cv

Sveaas v. Christie's Inc.

SUMMARY ORDER

Rulings by summary order do not have precedential effect. Citation to a summary order filed on or after January 1, 2007, is permitted and is governed by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1 and this court's Local Rule 32.1.1. When citing a summary order in a document filed with this court, a party must cite either the Federal Appendix or an electronic database (with the notation "summary order"). A party citing a summary order must serve a copy of it on any party not represented by counsel.

At a stated term of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, in the City of New York, on the 22nd day of December, two thousand eleven.

PRESENT: PETER W. HALL, GERARD E. LYNCH, DENNY CHIN, Circuit Judges.

UPON DUE CONSIDERATION, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED. Plaintiff-Appellant Christen Sveaas appeals from the district court's dismissal of his complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Sveaas v. Christie's, Inc., No. 10 Civ 4263 (LTS), 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49118 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2011). We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts and procedural history of the case.

We review a district court's grant of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss de novo.

Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002). "In conducting this review, we draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff['s] favor, assume all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Sveaas, a Norwegian businessman and prominent wine collector, approached DefendantAppellee Christie's, Inc. ("Christie's") to discuss holding an auction offering wines from his cellar. In July 2007, Sveaas and Christie's entered into a Consignment, Advance and Security Agreement (the "Agreement"). The Agreement provided that the auction would be scheduled for November 3, 2007, in Los Angeles and named Christie's as Sveaas's agent for purposes of offering the wine for sale at the auction.

Christie's advertised the auction primarily through its own publications and website, focusing its marketing and promotional efforts in the United States, mainly in the Los Angeles area. Prior to the auction, it printed 2000 copies of a 200-page cloth-bound color catalogue for distribution to potential bidders. The Amended Complaint asserts that Christie's untimely distribution of the catalogues and insufficient publicity efforts caused the auction to fail and that "many of the lots, despite their impeccable provenance and extreme desirability, either failed to sell or sold significantly below market value," resulting in a loss to Sveaas of "not less than U.S. $5,000,000." He filed an Amended Complaint asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of contract. In a Memorandum Order entered April 21, 2011, the district court granted Christie's motion to dismiss, and Sveaas timely appealed.

A. Dismissal of the Breach of Contract Claim

Sveaas first asserts that the district court erred in dismissing his breach of contract claim, arguing, contrary to the district court's conclusion, that Section 2.7(b) of the Agreement did not completely insulate Christie's from liability for promotional efforts it took or failed to take. He contends that his reading is supported by the ...


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