Joseph Otavnik v Ritchie Sinclair (2008)



Ontario Superior Court of Justice

(Small Claims Court)
Dismissed at Trial
Joseph Otavnik
(art retailer)
Ritchie Sinclair 
(Morrisseau’s former protégé)
Kinsman Robinson Galleries 
(Morrisseau principal art dealer)


A 22 December 2008 Claim for $10 000 for damage to property and negligence.
Status: Kinsman Robinson Galleries (KRG) filed a Defendant’s Claim against Sinclair to protect them from liability in the event of an Otavnik win. On 27 April 2009 Kinsman Robinson Galleries agreed to remove all references to Sinclair from its website and in doing so settled with Otavnik. Sinclair consented to KRG removing themselves as defendants. On January 11, 2011 Otavnik’s claim against Sinclair was dismissed at trial by the Honourable M. Donald Godfrey, Provincial Judge of the Toronto Region.

The plaintiff has failed to satisfy me on items b), c) and d). Firstly, the plaintiff has failed to satisfy me on a balance of probabilities that the statements of Mr. Sinclair are false. I am not prepared to accept the evidence of Mr. McLeod for the plaintiff over that of Mr. Robinson for the defendant as to the authenticity of the painting. Both witnesses are reputed art dealers who gave their respective opinions, but the plaintiff’s evidence did not sufficiently tip the scales in the plaintiff’s favour.

Secondly, I am not satisfied that the defendant acted with malice. The defendant appears to have worked with Norval Morrisseau for many years. His statements regarding the plaintiff’s painting, in my opinion, have been made without malice and for the purpose of reiterating previously made statements in newspaper articles and through statements made by or attributed to Morrisseau, himself. Finally, the plaintiff has failed to prove he suffered special damages.

Jan 11 2011 Judgment of Honourable Judge Godfrey

Note: The Kinsman Robinson Galleries / Joe Otavnik Minutes of Settlement (of April 27 2009) which were disclosed to the public include the concession from the Kinsman Robinson Galleries that;

“KRG will remove all references to Sinclair which it has posted on its website known as http://genuinemorrisseau.bloqspot(.the “Blog”) and will not re-publish those posts on any other website.

In this letter to Ritchie Sinclair dated May 14 2009 Kinsman Robinson Galleries sought consent to dismiss Otavnik’s claim against KRG and also the Defendant’s claim KRG had filed against Sinclair.