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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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An auction house has lost my item. I sent a maritime poster

Customer Question

An auction house has lost my item.
I sent a maritime poster to an auction house for appraisal, despite asking for the poster to be returned via special delivery when I recently contacted the auctioneers I was told they had tried to contact me quite a few times and had returned the poster.
I asked for proof of posting and was told that it had been returned "as cheaply as possible" when I asked for proof of this I was told a receipt wasn't asked for, this is despite me asking for insured post, the auctioneer has now said he only "thinks" he tried to contact me, I have logged into my email provider directly and the only email I have is the one confirming receipt of the poster, there are no others.
The auctioneer is a specialist in maritime posters, this poster had excellent provenance and was (I believe) an extremely rare item, I can't believe that knowing how I obtained the poster and my belief in it's authenticity he would just post it back out as he says he did. My personal thoughts are that the item has either been lost or damaged whilst in his possesion, the return parcel would have been three feet high, to suggest that no form of proof of posting or even a receipt is available or was requested just doesn't ring true, I also don't believe that any attempt to contact me has been made.
He must have a duty of care, especially when I specifically ask for insured postage ( I said I would pay and confirmed this in my covering email).
Where do I go from here.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.

Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I ask if the auction has made any proposals regarding the apparent loss of the poster please?

Joshua :

Do you know the value of the poster or failing which do you have a way of ascertaining the same?

Customer:

Hi Joshua

Joshua :

Hi. May I ask if you are still typing?

Customer:

The auction house have only made a point of saying the poster had "nominal" value. The poster was by an artist called Montague Birrell Black and was issued circa 1912 to advertise the Titanic and Olympic liners. There are only believed to be around a dozen or so in circulation, it is believed that most were withdrawn after the sinking of the Titanic, mine was unusual that a paper cut out had been pasted over the words "Titanic and Olympic" that read "RMS Olympic the largest steamer in the world", the Olympic was only the largest steamer until 1914 when I think the Brittanic took this title, the poster was issued to the Hull and Barnsly Railway, this railway company ceased to exist in the early 1920's, these two factors help to date the poster. The poster came directly from a piece of furniture that originally came from the Hull and Barnsley Railway, it had been used as a back for a set of "pigeon holes" and wasn't on display when I obtained the pigeon holes.The auctioneer had viewed this item face to face in 2012, he said at the time he was 90% sure of it's authenticity but because of it's very dirty condition could not be 100% sure, he had one of the surving copies that said "Titanic and Olympic" and this had an auction estimate of £50000.00, I was told that if mine was authentic it would be worth less because the word Titanic had been covered and the condition was poor. I approached the auctioneer again late last year after it occured to me that the poster surface beneath the pasted on star would be clean, he dates posters by the type of paper and struggled with mine because the surface was so dirty, I suggested that he could peel off enough of the star to check the clean surface underneath, he agreed to this condition and I sent the poster to him via Royal Mail SD, I also stated my belief in it's originality and requested return insured postage. I have no idea of value but the railway company it was issued to was a tiny branch line in Yorkshire, there are only known to be a dozen or so with the words Titanic and Olympic, the odds of there being another with just the word Olympic surviving must be tiny.

Joshua :

Thanks. Is there any way you can obtain an independent third party opinion in relation to the poster at the stage - for example, do you have any pictures you can show to a third party?

Customer:

Hi I have full resolution photo's, I did have an email from a man in Leeds who suggested "tens of thousands" I have no way to know whether this was wishful thinking on his part or not, I can't remember how I found his details but he suggested the auctioneer and he knew him personally, unfortunately I don't have this email and I beleive he was a collector rather than an expert in this field.

Joshua :

Thank you. The fact that you have photos is very helpful. the legal position here is relatively straightforward. The auctioneer and accepted the post from you in order to carry out a service - of the appraisal - and during the auctioneers period of custody, the auctioneer owes you a duty of care in respect of the poster; that duty is to return the poster to you in the same condition. from what you say, they have failed to do this and there is clear evidence in the form of an email that they received the poster and as such this is beyond dispute. Whether or not they have a receipt for posting is immaterial as they duty does not end until the poster safely reaches you. accordingly, you would have the basis of a claim against the auctioneer for loss to the value of the poster. of course, ascertaining the value is the issue given the loss

Joshua :

I note you say that the auctioneer the tributes any nominal value to the poster which of course is extremely you convenient given his loss of the same. there is an obvious conflict of interest for the auctioneer at this point. If the valuation was given to you after the point the poster have been lost, I cannot see that this can be considered reliable as it is in the auctioneer's obvious interest to minimise the value of the poster in respect of any claim

Joshua :

accordingly, you will need to consider obtaining third party expert evidence in order to obtain a valuation for the poster. It is extremely helpful if you have high resolution photos in this respect. You would need to ascertain the value of the poster on the balance of probability - i.e. given the evidence you have, in a third party expert opinion, the value is likely to have been within the range of X and Y. in the circumstances, you may wish to propose that you and the auctioneer agree an independent third party joint expert however if the auctioneer refuses this proposal, you can consider appointing your own.

Joshua :

if independent third party expert evidence suggests that the poster was indeed only of nominal value as the auctioneer claims then unless you are able to obtain persuasive contrary evidence, I would suggest this is likely to be the end of the matter as one cannot claim to sentimental value but only for actual value in the courts. however, if independent third party expert evidence suggests the poster may well have been worth considerably more, then you have the basis for a claim in the County court. Establishing negligence will be straightforward on the above facts and the only argument to be had would be on the value of the poster. You would need to us the court's permission to provide expert evidence in this respect which in the circumstances would likely be forthcoming. as above, you need to establish the value on the balance of probability and so the test is not overly difficult. in addition, the auctioneers negligence in a narrow respect places the auctioneer on the back foot as it is his action that has caused the difficulty with regards to valuing the poster which may encourage the judge to lend to you any benefit of any doubt that this is not inevitable

Joshua :

if you decide to issue proceedings, the simplest way to do so is by using www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. If the amount you claim is less than £10,000, the matter should be allocated to the small claims track which is very straightforward but does not allow peak claiming of legal costs though expert evidence costs can be claimed providing the court gives permission. If the claim is more than £10,000, the matter will likely be allocated to the fast track which allows for reclaiming legal costs subject to limits

Joshua :

is there anything above I can clarify for you?

Customer:

Thank you for that, where do I go from here? I can't afford an expensive legal fight, I haven't sent any further emails to the auctioneer since asking them to check there records for proof of postage and to request that they check their premises in case a mistake had been made and the item was still there. I didn't want to put anything in writing until I had a clear idea of how to initially make a complaint. Regarding the photographs I can send them to other auction houses but they may refer me to him, he is the worldwide specialist in Titanic and White Star line sales

Customer:

crossed posts - I sent mine as yours arrived. I will look into moneyclaim and mail some pictures out, I won't close this discussion yet in case I need to query something but greatly appreciate your advice so far. Many thanks.

Joshua :

A pleasure. If I can assist any further as the situation develops please of course do not hesitate to revert to me

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. This will also save the chat thread to your account. You are welcome to return at any time if you have further follow up questions without further charge. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though.

Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
Joshua and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Joshua


I have obtained one valuation and I am awaiting two more, when I sent the poster to the auctioneer I lived in Yorkshire, we now live in Scotland, do I issue the claim via the scottish equivalent of moneyclaim?


Many thanks

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Is the auctioneer in England?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Joshua, yes he is

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Thanks. On that basis because they are based in England and you were at the time of the alleged loss you would have a basis to issue in the English courts ongrounds of jurisdiction.

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