James White v Ritchie Sinclair (2010)

2010
SC-10-109226

ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE

(Toronto Small Claims Court)
Judgment at Trial
James White
(c.o.b. White Distribution Ltd. Inc.)

v

Ritchie Sinclair

A October 25 2010 Claim for $25 000
for defamation and intentional interference with economic relations.
Status: A Jan 13 2011 Court Endorsement provided an opportunity for the plaintiff to add material from this action to his Superior court action against Sinclair, on or before June 1 2011. He did not act. This action presumed dismissed as re-litigation of the Superior Court action against Sinclair was reactivated in Oct 2012 after White filed new materials which triggered a second settlement conference on Nov 7 2012. An Amended Defence was filed on October 3 2014. In 2015 the matter came to trial and the Plaintiff received a $25K Judgment in his favour. No witnesses testified for either side other than the plaintiff and defendant. The plaintiff was represented by Brian Shiller. The defendant was self represented.
*

 

Maggie Hatfield v Donna Child and Artworld Inc. (2009)

2009

SC-09-087264-000

ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE

(Toronto Small Claims Court)
Judgment at Trial
Maggie Hatfield
v
Donna Child and Artworld Inc. 
(c.o.b. as Artworld of Sherway)

 

A July 2009 Claim for $25 000 for misrepresentation and fraud
Status: Trial: Sept 1 2011. Nov 16 2011. Feb 23/24 2012. June 4 2012. On March 25 2013 DJ Martial ruled that the artwork was, on a balance of probabilities, genuine . The plaintiff appealed the decision which was affirmed on Dec 17 2013.
*
Plaintiff Exhibits

Defendant’s Exhibits

Norval Morrisseau’s Sworn Declarations directed at Artworld of Sherway

    • 17 September 2004 “I enclose a copy of an Affidavit…as sworn by Mr. Morrisseau…describing numerous fakes and imitations as listed in a catalogue put out by the Maslak-McLeod Gallery. If any of those pieces are for sale by your gallery this weekend, please realize that you are selling fakes. Please also realize that Mr. Morrisseau does not have any Representation Agreement with Maslak-McLeod…and does not recognize Maslak-McLeod as being able to authenticate any of Mr. Morrisseau’s works”.
    • 25 February 2005 “various artworks that you are offering for sale attributed to our client are in fact fakes. We and our client are prepared to meet with you and review and advise you of which works…are misattributed to our client”, “our client advises us the works in your possession advertised on your website as by Morrisseau are not by his hand”.
Related Media
Ritchie Sinclair appearing on Canada AM to speak about Morrisseau issues in 2014 Artworld representatives appear on Canada AM to respond to Mr. Sinclair’s allegations in 2014
Retired teacher continues legal fight over disputed Norval Morrisseau painting. (May 11, 2013) Ottawa Citizen

(Article Excerpt) The appeal also alleges the small-claims court judge erred by “unreasonably and incorrectly relying in the decision upon misapprehended facts, statements of fact that do not form a part of the evidence, unsupported non-expert hearsay evidence, and documents w hich w ere never disclosed or made evidence …” The appeal lists several examples, including the judge’s statement that Morrisseau had “Alzheimer’s disease.”

Art lovers beware: Norval Morrisseau fakes are still on the market, says lawyer (Apr 8 2013) Ottawa Citizen

(Article Excerpt) “My opinion, and that of my client, based upon what I have seen, is that there is a huge problem with the existence of fakes, and people should be particularly cautious when purchasing the work of Norval Morrisseau, and examine each painting on a case-by-case basis, and not rely unduly on a single statement about a single painting made by a single small-claims courts judge.” … Sommer says that in his opinion, the judgment contains errors of fact and law. For example, the judge noted that Morrisseau suffered from Alzheimer’s, he said….Morrisseau in his later years suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The distinction may be important, because Morrisseau’s mental state around the time Hatfield bought her painting was a key issue in the trial….The judge also ruled, in an apparent error, that “the court finds as a fact that the painted black dry brush signature on the back of the painting Wheel of Life is that of Wilfred Morrisseau.”

Market for Norval Morrisseau art work may pick up after court ruling (Apr 3 2013) Ottawa Citizen

(Article Excerpt) – Don Robinson, a Toronto art gallery owner who was Morrisseau’s principal agent for 19 years, testified that the artist never signed the back of his paintings in black paint. All of the paintings sold at the auctions were fake, Robinson testified. He also suggested that Morrisseau’s own estranged family was involved in the production of fraudulent paintings. …It’s the first court ruling on the authenticity of a painting by Morrisseau, as far as he is aware, says Brian Shiller, the lawyer for Artworld of Sherway, the defendant in the case. “Hopefully now is a great time for Canadians to discover, or rediscover, Morrisseau,” he said. “Because there are a number of (similar) paintings out there, and they can probably be bought for very good value.” …. That should make it easier for galleries across Canada to sell similar paintings that came from the southern Ontario auctions, confident they are genuine Morrisseaus, said Shiller.

Court rules disputed Morrisseau painting is authentic (Apr 2 2013) Globe & Mail

(Article Excerpt) – Canadian art scene observers who have been trying to prove that the market for Norval Morrisseau paintings has been awash in fakes and forgeries for years have been dealt a major setback in a decision from the Ontario Small Claims Court. Deputy Judge Paul Martial of Toronto ruled on Tuesday that a Morrisseau canvas titled Wheel of Life that a Sarnia schoolteacher bought in 2005 and came to believe was bogus is “on the balance of probabilities … an original Norval Morrisseau”…. Disputes over the authenticity of Morrisseau paintings have been fought by collectors, auctioneers, dealers and scholars, as well as representatives and relatives of the artist – and even Mr. Morrisseau himself.

Art factions square off over Morrisseau – (June 4 2012) Ottawa Citizen

(Article Excerpt) – One believes that the Morrisseau market, particularly since the mid-1990s, has been severely compromised by hundreds, even thousands of fakes – “the greatest fraud in Canadian art history,” to quote the Feb. 23 court testimony of Donald Robinson whose Toronto gallery, Kinsman Robinson, served as Morrisseau’s primary dealer from 1989 through 2007.

Ritchie Sinclair v Joseph Otavnik (2009)

 2009

 SC-09-000872782D

ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE

(Toronto Small Claims Court)

 Dismissed at Trial
Ritchie Sinclair
(Morrisseau’s former protégé)
Joseph Otavnik
(art retailer) 

 

A June 10 2009 Defendant’s Claim for $25 000 for defamation, harassment and vexatious litigation.
Status: Ritchie Sinclair filed a Defendant’s Claim for harassment against Joe Otavnik in the Otavnik v Sinclair   action on June 10 2009. Sinclair’s Claim was dismissed at trial however the Honourable Judge Godfrey’s Reasons produced several findings including the following extracted from his January 11 2011 Judgment:

The harassment claim relates to a history of litigation involving Mr. Sinclair and others as defendants. Mr. Otavnik is a party plaintiff to some but not all of these actions. All these actions relate to one fundamental common issue, being the allegations of fake Morrisseau paintings.
……………….
Mr. Sinclair also alleged that Mr. Otavnik has deleted many references on the Wikipedia website relating to Norval Morrisseau and defamed Mr. Sinclair under the screen names of “123 The Habs” and “123 Maddie”. Mr. Otavnik denies using these screen names, although Mr. Sinclair established by Exhibit Eight that Mr. Otavnik has used the screen name “Maddie 123CA”.
…………..
As such, I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Otavnik is one and the same as “The Habs One”. I also find it is more than a coincidence that Mr. Otavnik also has the screen name of “Maddie 123CA” with AOL and that the screen names used on the Wikipedia alterations and comments are “123 Maddie” and “123 Habs”. I find that all those screen names are probably Mr. Otavnik.

Jan 11 2011 Judgment of Honourable Judge Godfrey

Plaintiff Exhibits

On April 6 2010 Joe Otavnik was arrested and charged by the Toronto Police Service (53 Division) for the alleged assault and criminal harassment of Ritchie Sinclair. The Otavnik Criminal Court matter came to trial on Feb 24 2012 and was adjourned to March 2013. The Crown failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and Mr. Otavnik was found Not Guilty on May 17 2013. Mr. Otavnik sued the Toronto Police Services Board and four officers in Oshawa Small Claims Court in 2010 for charging him. His action was dismissed with court costs against him in December 2013, which reportedly remain unpaid.

Joseph Otavnik v Garth Cole (2009)

2009

SC-09-08444000
 ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE
(Toronto Small Claims Court)
Dismissed at Trial
Joseph Otavnik
(art retailer) 
v
Garth Cole
(A Friend of Ritchie Sinclair and Norval Morrisseau)

 

A June 8 2009 Claim for $10 000 for slander of title, defamation and injurious falsehood.
Status: On 8 April 2010, the morning before the trial, for $2, Otavnik settled his Claim against Mr. Cole’s co-defendants who were Ritchie Sinclair’s lawyer (in McLeod et al v Sinclair) and his lawyer’s wife  The Otavnik Claim against Cole was dismissed at trial with court costs awarded to Mr. Cole. These costs have never been paid according to an affidavit filed by Mr. Cole in a Contempt motion brought against Mr. Otavnik in the Superior Court action Hearn v McLeod.

 

Joseph Otavnik v Ritchie Sinclair (2008)

2008

SC-09-000872782

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

(Small Claims Court)
Dismissed at Trial
Joseph Otavnik
(art retailer)
 v
Ritchie Sinclair 
(Morrisseau’s former protégé)
and 
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.