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Art Damage – Expert Witness and Legal Testimony


Art damage related expert witness and legal testimony services are a vital professional service to the community, I believe. But, there’s a caveat: art conservation as a profession (and a passion) is an advocate for the artwork involved, independent of the owner. Let me illustrate with a high profile case involving public art in Los Angeles, CA. A major outdoor mural by living artist Kent Twitchell was located on a building in downtown Los Angeles owned by the Department of  Labor. The mural was painted out and the artist sued. The legal brief may be found here: http://www.usip.com/pdf/Recent_Articles/Twitchell.pdf

Ed Ruscha Monument mural before being painted out

In plain language, my expert witness service was secured by the Department of Labor, United States Government through their legal council, Schwartz, Steve-Schwartz & Janzen LLP to provide analysis and consultation that would allow the two sides to settle in the case of compensating the artist. Through cleaning and (mural) removal tests, I presented several scenarios that could be options which included budgets for those hypothetical proposals. It was the budgets that I proposed that were the basis for the settlement of the case to the approval of my client. My tests, evaluations and budgets were based on the protection and preservation needs of the artwork and were real representations. In this case, however, I gave no deposition and was not cross examined.

Many years afterwards, I received a call from the opposite side’s attorney who stated they were interested in my services as an expert witness, now for their side, because they esteemed my professionalism and the fact that I was an “advocate for the artwork.” (Btw, I performed this same type of service on behalf of Shell Oil Company in lger and Levin Law Firm, Botello v. Shell Oil Co. (1991).

Some examples of expert witness cases involving art issues include: protecting public art or damage to public art, sorting out damage and costs for negligence in shipping/handling/storage of artwork, insurance fine arts policy claims, assessing damage of art in fires/water damage. Here are some of the cased I have worked with over the years:

FACL, Inc. vs St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, Los Angeles, Argued by Maurice H. Katz, Attorney General Law Practice. Expert witness for plaintiff who prevailed (settlement). Deposition taken.

Folger and Levin Law Firm, Botello v. Shell Oil Co. (1991) Expert Witness (link) for the Defense – Analysis resulted in settlement in favor of artist, applauded by both sides (settlement). Analysis, inspection, reports.

Department of Labor, United States Government (Schwartz, Steve-Schwartz & Janzen LLP) vs. Kent Twitchell. Expert Witness (link), for the defense – analysis provided basis for settlement with artist that was applauded by both sides (settlement). Analysis, inspection, reports.

Haims, Valentino & Latchaw, LLP, Oakland, CA – Dahlin vs. Wildside West Bar. Expert witness for Plaintiff who lost. Carol Valentino of Haims, Valentino & Latchaw, LLP did not pay their bills (settlement). Analysis, inspection, reports. Statement given but no deposition taken.

Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles Graffiti on Los Angeles Freeway Murals (link) was about to file suit against the State of California, Caltrans and Vincent Moreno as Plaintiff for Caltrans’ painting out of murals along freeways in downtown Los Angeles. Hired as Expert Witness to work with both sides to determine resolution (settlement) which was achieved. Analysis, inspection, reports.

US General Services Administration vs. Turner. GSA’s legal branch looking to recoup lost WPA possessions. Expert witness provided analysis, inspection, reports (settlement). http://www.gsa.gov/finearts

Peggy Cafritz Estate (smoke and fire damage), New York. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, reports.

Nevins Estate (smoke and fire damage), California. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement.  Analysis, inspection, reports, conservation treatments.

Golden State Mutual Insurance Co. (Historic preservation) California. Analysis, inspection, reports, deposition, testified in court.

Simic Galleries (San Diego) vs. Landlord. Expert witness for Plaintiff who prevailed in settlement. Analysis, inspection, reports.

Numerous insurance claim resolutions/settlements nationwide.

Here’s a short testimonial:


To discuss your needs or ask for a CV please give Scott a call at 805 564 3438 or faclartdoc@gmail.com

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