A Manhattan judge has dismissed a fraudulent inducement lawsuit filed against a wine store and its owner by a customer who bought six $12.99 bottles of a wine he didn’t like.
Civil Court Judge David Cohen also dismissed a claim accusing the White Plains store, Grapes, The Wine Company, and its owner, Daniel Posner, of defamation for calling the customer “a disgusting human being.”
The plaintiff, Philip Seldon, has written several books about wine, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine.” Seldon also attracted attention in the mid-1990s when he taught a night school class called “Getting Even,” about how to get revenge legally, according to a 1995 article in the Los Angeles Times.
Seldon bought six bottles of 2009 Cune Vina Rioja Crianza after getting an email promotion from the store. The email said the store’s staff was “very impressed” with the wine and that the “old world style of Rioja” is on a roll. It also touted the wine’s 91 rating from leading wine critic Robert Parker.
Seldon, after deciding that he didn’t like the wine, demanded a refund. When Posner refused, Seldon contested the charge for the wine with American Express. In an email to AmEx, Posner called Seldon “a disgusting human being.” Soon after, Seldon sent the store an email saying he would sue, explaining, “I have nothing better to do with my life,” and filed the suit.
On March 20, Cohen found that the defamation claim must be dismissed because the email was simply name-calling, not actionable defamation. And the judge found the fraudulent inducement suit must be dismissed because Seldon hadn’t alleged any false statements.
“When the wine did not measure up to his subjective tastes, he decided that the wine was not as advertised,” Cohen wrote. “However, plaintiff has not demonstrated at even the minimum prima facie level that any deception took place, that there was any falsity or anything other than plaintiff’s assumptions were incorrect.”
Seldon was represented by The Law Firm of Jeffrey L. Lessoff. Lesoff said his client would appeal. The defendants were represented by L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini. The case is Seldon v. Grapes, The Wine Company, 20953/13.