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Fan Loses Suit Against CBS & Christie’s Over Auctioned Cmdr. Data Memorabilia [UPDATE]

Two years ago a Star Trek fan sued Christie’s auction house and CBS claiming that a visor that he purchased at auction was falsely attributed as one worn by Brent Spiner on Star Trek The Next Generation. Even though the fan said Spiner was a witness to the false claim by Christies, he lost his final appeal yesterday. Details below.

The tale of the visor
This saga all started when  Ted Moustakis purchased a number of items in the 2006 Christie’s Star Trek auction which brought in over $7 million. The New Jersey man spent over $12,000 for a uniform and a poker visor worn by Brent Spiner (TNG: Data) as well as a poker table used on TNG. Moustakis claimed the items are not genuine and says that Spiner is backing him up. Moustakis showed the visor to Spiner at the 2007 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas and Spiner told him it was not one he wore.


Moustakis with his alleged fake memorabilia

However yesterday Moustakis lost his last appeal in the case. Law.com quotes the ruling:

"Contrary to plaintiff’s contention that defendant Christie’s had represented the Commander Data uniform to be one of a kind, no such representation was ever made in the auction catalog," the panel wrote.

Moreover, the conditions of sale, which Moustakis accepted, expressly stated that "all property is sold ‘as is’ without any representation or warranty of any kind by Christie’s or the seller," the court noted.

The panel held that the fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims were duplicative of the breach of contract claims and concluded that Moustakis had not sufficiently stated a violation of General Business Law §§349 or 350.

"Finally, the misconduct alleged here, which arises out of a private contract, does not resemble the egregious wrongdoing that could be considered part of a pattern directed at the public generally, so as to warrant the imposition of punitive damages," the panel held.

UPDATE: Trek Prop Collecting Expert Says Suit Had No Merit

Alec Peters, owner of PropWorx and an expert in Star Trek memorabilia has weigned in on this at his Star Trek Prop, Costume and Auction Blog. Peters was at the Christie’s auction and asserts it was clear that the Data visor was never presented as one worn on screen. Peter’s (who is also an attorney) writes:

Christie’s had clearly spelled this out in the catalog and in the Auction Notes, where note # 633 read: “Please note that this should read ‘made for’ and not worn by.”

Peter’s also offers this important advice:

If you want to buy movie props & costumes you need to do your homework. At a studio sale, the authenticity of an item is not in question, but the status of the item, i.e. screen used, production made, etc., needs to be carefully reviewed.

Read more at startrekauction.blogspot.com

 

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Pensive's Wetness
December 23, 2009 3:10 pm

Fools, Money…. 1st?

CmdrR
December 23, 2009 3:15 pm

So… was the uni and visor the one used on the show, or did Christie’s lawyers do their job and help the auction house perpetrate a fraud?

Is Christie’s reliable??

Harry Ballz
December 23, 2009 3:27 pm

So, the answer is simple: Nobody buy any entertainment memorabilia from Christies EVER AGAIN until they refund this dude’s money. Spread the word!

matcier
December 23, 2009 3:34 pm

3

Great :-)

Lt. Bailey
December 23, 2009 3:38 pm

Although I would never want to see anyone screwed over like that, there is still the phrase “caveat emptor” to learned here.

The auction was shown on TV as a special and it is on the HD TOS 1st Season DVD set. When you see how much stuff people had to go through and find out what was from which show. I could imagine there might be a few mistakes made in labeling or identifying a piece. Establishing a piece to certain actor would be hard enough unless you scan for their DNA.

Lore
December 23, 2009 3:40 pm

Harry, I’m locking the vault, they won’t get a cent out of me until Brent Spiner coughs up the dough for that Christy fellow……Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop drinking…….

Harry Ballz
December 23, 2009 3:42 pm

Ah, Lore, one of my favourite lines from Airplane! Thanks!

BaronByng
December 23, 2009 3:43 pm

Memorabilia, not -belia, unless you were thinking of Commissioner Bele from “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield…”

CmdrR
December 23, 2009 3:54 pm

Lt. Bailey “– I could imagine there might be a few mistakes made in labeling or identifying a piece.–”

And yet, funnily enough, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT CHRISTIE’S DOES.
If the merchandise is crap, then the auction house is crap. If I were in the front office at Christie’s, the $12K would be nothing compared to the biz’s reputation.

Or consider it this way: What if the Mona Lisa hit the auction block. Someone could possibly bid a billion dollars. But… Leo D. Vinci made copies. Moreover, within a few decades, very very skilled artists made copies. SO… if Christie’s wasn’t willing to stand behind its work, then who in their right mind would pony up the big bucks.

$12K for Trek junk or $1B for a piece of world history. It doesn’t matter. The value is an intangible. Christie’s NAME is on the line to secure the monetary value of that intangible.

Christie’s should have lost this case, and then thanked the judge for keeping them in business.

SChaos1701
December 23, 2009 3:55 pm

I actually feel bad for this guy.

December 23, 2009 4:02 pm

You should know after buying a poker table and visor, that the dealer always wins. Looks like you got bluffed.

I thought he always wore a green visor in the show?
Either way you would think Chrisites being so huge would be more trustworthy…

You could always now sell it on Ebay as…

“The Infamous visor that Data supposedly wore, but told me he didn’t, that went to court and made the news Visor” – One owner… LOL

AJ
December 23, 2009 4:06 pm

9:

CmdrR:

I think Christies’ reputation is absolutely secure. Considering how much memorabilia they moved for Paramount, this is a spit in the ocean.

AdmNaismith
December 23, 2009 4:26 pm

The visor Data wore was green. This pink one was probably an alternate provided by Props to the Directorof the ep who chose the green one.

Christie’s clearly indemnified themselves, too. Unfortunately, this guy had no hope.

texasgeek
December 23, 2009 5:30 pm

the reason that he lost was because he asked for $7 million. If he had asked for a full refund plus expenses and maybe 10% for his trouble, he would have come out on top.

Really, $7 million?? What was this guy thinking?

I feel bad for the guy, but he got some bad advice somewhere, or just made a bad move all together.

Hell, anyone who’s seen the show knows the damn thing is green!

December 23, 2009 5:32 pm

Conditions of sale:

“all property is sold ‘as is’ without any representation or warranty of any kind by Christie’s or the seller,” ”

In other words, Christie’s is all like, “We’re pretty sure that this might be the uniform and visor that Data could’ve worn on the show.”

Dude, you put up that kind of dough, it’s on you to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. If I’m bidding on the Mona Lisa, I’m sure that later no one’s gonna say, “Oh, wait. That might be the copy Da Vinci made for his cousin Vinnie.” It’s safe to assume that there no other known copies of the Mona Lisa. Movie props? Not so much. Christie’s did not warrant most of that stuff was as one-of-a-kind nor as worn/used by the actor.

This guy was suing for millions in a laundry list of “damages”. Read his complaint. He already got a refund for a couple of things. He needs to re-read the conditions of sale and accept the fact that twelve grand just burned a whole in his crazypants pocket.

brian
December 23, 2009 5:35 pm

Great Scott! If we can’t trust Christie’s, who can we trust?! They’ve lost all credibility and I for one will never participate in a Christie’s auction again.

Jason
December 23, 2009 5:35 pm

how was the visor described in the catalog

December 23, 2009 6:10 pm

Reminds me of the fact that many guitars (if not all) in most Hard Rock Cafe’s are all reproductions, for insurance reasons, I’m told.

December 23, 2009 6:15 pm

@17

Here is the listing for the visor: http://bit.ly/5FQVhK

Note that it says, “made for”, not “worn by” and that the salesroom notice makes that correction from what is written in the catalogue.

JP
December 23, 2009 6:26 pm

If you’re going to pay $12,000 for a $100 poker table and some old clothes because it was on some old tv show then frankly you have bigger propblems than fraud.

A fool and his money….

thebiggfrogg
December 23, 2009 6:38 pm

It is time for the guy to move out of his parents’ basement. But I suppose it is hard to give up that $10,000 a month allowance for taking out the trash every day. ; )

December 23, 2009 6:39 pm

Totally not cool on so many levels.

thebiggfrogg
December 23, 2009 6:40 pm

6. Actually, I always liked the progression of that schtick. My favorite:
“I guess I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.”

CmdrR
December 23, 2009 7:27 pm

AJ —
I’m sure Christie’s lawyers earned their pay. As for the auction house’s reputation, I don’t think it’s about legalities. The fact is they put up something that most people would think is one thing when in fact it’s another. Sure, the buyer’s a fool. Sure, his case is targ poo. But, if I had the money to go bidding at Christie’s I’d seriously be alarmed by this event. That’s all I’m sayin’ and I ain’t sayin’ n’more.

Surely, that’s enough…

Bob Tompkins
December 23, 2009 7:46 pm

On the soapbox—
Laws are not written to protect the average joe, they’re written to keep the moneyed interests happy.
As a wonderful example. just look at the joke of a ‘health-care reform’ bill we’re getting stuck with.
Lawmakers are too afraid to get bigbiz pissed, no matter how many voters want something to get done, The courts are the same way.
Now I’m off—-

Merry Christmas
Happy Hannukah
Whatever applies!

Kev-1
December 23, 2009 8:35 pm

Check any piece you may want to buy carefully against DVDs, photos, or any other resource you have. Auction houses have had incorrect descriptions before, for whatever reason. And have a good holiday!

BringBackTheShat
December 23, 2009 8:35 pm

**********14. texasgeek – December 23, 2009
the reason that he lost was because he asked for $7 million. If he had asked for a full refund plus expenses and maybe 10% for his trouble, he would have come out on top.
Really, $7 million?? What was this guy thinking? **********
I believe the story read that Christie’s SOLD $7 million worth of Star Trek items at Auction in 2006, NOT that the guy was suing them for $7 million.
The little guy will always lose when up against big money lawyers. So much for democracy.

Anthony Thompson
December 23, 2009 8:42 pm

I still wonder if anyone purchased that fake Matt Jeffries rendering and how much they paid for it.

Rm10019
December 23, 2009 9:31 pm

I have to say this whole culture of snarky comments without a thought for the person’s feelings is really getting old. Those making fun of this person should really think about youselves and loved ones and how you would feel if you were in this spot or a family member. Tis the season to avoid your douche-bag nature and have an caring attitude.

CmdrR
December 23, 2009 9:53 pm

And you people call yourselves “Airplane” fans.
Re-read 24.

ryanhuyton
December 23, 2009 9:55 pm

I bet the gentleman had a hard time backing his claim that Brent Spiner agreed that the items were fake. Problem is, since he may not have had any witnesses to that conversation, it became a he said/they said case. And yes, Christie’s definitely screwed up and/or were negligent in regards to putting the visor and uniform on auction. These items may indeed be fake, in which case an appeal could still happen if Christie’s knew the items were fake. I suspect this guy will get a good lawyer. If the items are proven to be fake, the contract would be void even in spite of the fine print. Ultimately, a judge may decide fraud has occured and that no piece of paper can cover it up. This isn’t over. Not by a long shot. And CBS/Paramount can be held liable as well if is proven they were negligent as well. But the hardest part would be if Brent Spiner did indeed wear the uniform and visor. I doubt there is any DNA to prove/disprove the claims. In other words, they could have been worn by LeVar Burton or another actor instead. The only part that can be proven is if the uniform and visor were made by the cosume and props department.

GarySeven
December 23, 2009 9:59 pm

#29-
For some of the snarky people, it’s because deep down they believe they are such basement-dwelling nerd loser types, and if they can say other people are that way, they feel they distance themselves from their own poor self-image. It never really works, it just hurts others. If you ask me, these people are the real losers. Not because they are nerdy, but because they are mean; and the meanness springs from not liking themselves.

Rm10019
December 23, 2009 10:27 pm

#32 Thanks for understanding my post. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

`Lestat`
December 23, 2009 10:43 pm

Maybe Brent Spiner could autograph the visor and we can all remember Christie’s apparent wrongdoing here.

Unfortunate. Sorry to learn this is going on.

Will_H
December 23, 2009 11:13 pm

I honestly was mad how much stuff got auctioned off. I know it was for cherity, but that was a lot of Star Trek’s legacy right there, now where us the non-rich fans have no access to it. I always thought it should have been put in a museum so the public could enjoy it. Its messed up if its a fake and sucks that the legal system doesnt seem to care, but oh well.

ryanhuyton
December 23, 2009 11:27 pm

Paramount and CBS had to get rid of a lot of their property. There wasn’t anywhere else to put it except in storage where the items could be forgotten about or damaged/destroyed. They did the sensible thing and allowed(abeit wealthy)fans to own a piece of television history. But there are still many items that are owned by CBS/Paramount to allow fans who were’nt able to afford or acquire any items to enjoy looking at actual ships,props, costumes etc. used in episodes and shows. There are items on display at the Star Trek Exhibition as well as in museums. Battlestar Galactica did the same recently.

Andy
December 23, 2009 11:43 pm

you’d think $12,000 could of went to something of better use.

Spock's Uncle
December 24, 2009 12:22 am

#31: It is listed in the catalogue as “Made for” NOT “worn by”… there are no damages. The ruling is correct. The guy who purchased the items needs to read things more carefully.

December 24, 2009 12:25 am

The auction catalog stated that the auction consisted of (paraphrasing) “..an array of items from CBS productions…”

Anything made for Star Trek in the CBS props and wardrobe dept (or by a sub-contractor) means the items were not fakes. A fake item would be something your Aunt Mary made you for Halloween. If you then sewed a CBS tag on and passed it off as Data’s uniform, that would be fraud.

Unless Christie’s warranted that an item was absolutely worn by a cast member, they have not committed fraud. If they had warranted that the item was worn by the actor or had a reasonable belief–had pictures of the actor wearing that item or testimony from the actor or CBS wardrobe staff–but then it turns out that the item was never worn, they still are not guilty of fraud. They only owe the buyer an apology and a refund on the warranted item. It be nice if they threw in some good faith cash for the buyer’s trouble–say, 5%– but they are not bound to do that unless it says so in the terms and conditions of the sale.

Christie’s didn’t screw this guy over. He neglected to read the rather large print of the COS, bought something that wasn’t what he thought, then demanded many times the price of the items as compensation.

Devon
December 24, 2009 3:58 am

^^ Exactly. So the uniform and visor are real, they just weren’t worn by Brent Spiner is all. Now had the item explicitly stated “As worn by Brent Spiner” or “As seen on ST:TNG” then it would be a different story.

David
December 24, 2009 4:36 am

Sell the fakes as memorabilia of the failed case. =]

Kosher Coder
December 24, 2009 5:15 am

First Rule of Acquisition:
Once you have their money, you never give it back.

December 24, 2009 7:31 am

Second rule of Acquisition: and get them to spend more of it… LOL

texasgeek
December 24, 2009 9:23 am

*******************27. BringBackTheShat – December 23, 2009
I believe the story read that Christie’s SOLD $7 million worth of Star Trek items at Auction in 2006, NOT that the guy was suing them for $7 million.
The little guy will always lose when up against big money lawyers. So much for democracy.**********

I’ve read several articles regarding this gentleman’s case that reference his request for $7 million. If this is a mistake (which is entirely possible) then my question would be: What was his actual suit for?

http://scifiwire.com/2009/12/star-trek-fan-loses-lawsu.php
http://www.imdb.com/news/ni1332567/
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34538095/ns/entertainment-television/

However the above articles back my original statement which was, “Really, $7 million?? What was this guy thinking?”

As for your closing comments, the little guy will always lose when asking for ridiculousness in the face of big money lawyers.

As for democracy, the two are not connected.

Merry Christmas!

texasgeek
December 24, 2009 9:30 am

A personal note:

I own several pieces of memorabilia myself. Set pieces, props, costume pieces, etc.

However, at no point would I spend that kind of money on them. While I would be very saddened to find out that one of my pieces were not what I though they were, I’ve only got about $300 tied up in my entire collection.

I do feel sorry for this guy.

But, given the small bit of information released to the media, I will reserve judgment given Christie’s past reputation.

TrekkerChick
December 24, 2009 9:51 am

It sucks to have to read the CoS. I feel badly that this individual didn’t. But businesses already have to pay for people who don’t read the instructions (or the description of the product) and then complain that they didn’t get what they THOUGHT that they bought… and then have to pay to defend themselves against lawsuits (or settle just to minimize the cost of defending themselves against even frivolous suits) that follow.

Michael
December 24, 2009 9:57 am

If you read the actual ruling it was a denial of damages. The judge actually said that he was entitled to a full refund.

Michael
December 24, 2009 10:05 am

Clarification: the judge commented seperately that he was likely entitiled to a refund. My post sounds like it was in the ruling intself. The ruling was that this was basically a contract dispute and did not rise to the level of fraud. As such the damages (which were sought under Fraud penelties) were denied. http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2009/2009_09543.htm

sean
December 24, 2009 10:05 am

Since when was there a contention that the uniform wasn’t worn by Brent Spiner? The only thing I ever saw Brent comment on was the poker visor. If this fellow was trying to return both, that might have worked against his claim.

sean
December 24, 2009 10:10 am

In fact, Brent just tweeted the following:

I only know about the visor. It wasn’t mine. He deserved refund, but got greedy.

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