Christie’s Loses $700,000 Appeal in Superstorm Sandy Damages

It's one of many suits resulting from Superstorm Sandy.

Red Hook section of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Red Hook section of the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The effects of Superstorm Sandy, which rocked the East Coast in October 2012, are still playing out. Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services is on the hook for $700,000 in a case of damage to art that New York’s Chowaiki Gallery had stored with Christie’s.

On Thursday, the First Department of the New York Supreme Court decided against the storage company in a suit brought by the Madison Avenue gallery’s insurer, XL Specialty Insurance Company. XL had accused Christie’s of gross negligence, breach of contract, and fraudulent misrepresentation, among other charges. Thursday’s decision reverses an earlier one, from September 2014, that dismissed XL’s complaint based on a waiver in the contract between the gallery and the storage company.

The company had guaranteed that in the event of a major storm, it would either move Chowaiki’s art to upper floors of its facility, in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, or at least raise them off the floor if they were stored on the first floor. According to the decision, the company had done so during Hurricane Irene in 2011, but failed to do so for Sandy a year later. Unfortunately, while Irene largely missed the city, Sandy hit it hard, inundating the storage facility.

Insurers for other clients have also brought suits against the storage company, which is owned by Christie’s auction house. Axa Art Insurance and StarNet Insurance sued for more than $11.5 million, but a January decision found the storage company not liable.

Two years after the storm, galleries in the West Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, which was hit hard by the storm, were still feeling the damage. Longtime Chelsea resident Casey Kaplan moved to the Flower District, partly because that part of the city is not in a flood zone.

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