It is in the news that Peter Doig has won a case, including being granted $2.5 million in fees, after he said he did not paint a picture.

From the NYT at the time the case was submitted, the claimant says "His suit contends that Mr. Doig is either confused or lying and that his denials blew up a plan to sell the work for millions of dollars." After seeing the facts of the case, it seems obvious that Mr. Doig was neither confused or lying, but what if he was?

None of the articles state exactly what law may have been broken here. Under what circumstances could someone sue another for either being confused or lying about the fact of if an item was created by them?

  • The story doesn't say that Doig broke any law, but was sued (presumably for rendering a supposedly valuable painting worthless). It could have been worse if Doig did claim to be the artist, and was sued by a purchaser who discovered the truth. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:05
  • But surely there must be a law that means one can be sued for "rendering a supposedly valuable painting worthless" in this way.
    – User65535
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:07
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    Why do you insist that Doig broke a law? It wasn't a criminal trial. The gallery would have made millions from selling the painting, and Doig wrecked their chances by denying he was the artist. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:15
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    FWIW, the claim arose under a common law tort theory, rather than under a statute. The common law is part of the law, but a common law tort claim arising under judicial decisions isn't usually called "a law".
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:14
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    @WeatherVane You can "break a law" other than a criminal statute. If you violate a common law duty or a statute that imposes a duty enforceable via a civil lawsuit, you are also breaking a law.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


The original lawsuit was filed "seeking damages for their alleged tortious interference with Plaintiffs' prospective economic advantage by taking action that scuttled the auction of a painting owned by Fletcher, and also seeking a declaration that Doig painted the painting", insofar as Doig denied being the painter of the work. To simplify matters, Fletcher came to possess a painting, (purportedly) believed that it was painted by Doig, and sought to sell it for a large amount of money. Doig stated that he did not paint the work. Doig acted to prevent the sale of the painting – that is against the law. Plaintiffs sought declaratory judgement, that the painting was made by Doig.

In a trial subsequent to the above ruling, the court actually declared that the painting was not done by Doig, and Doig sued for "vexatious litigation", being awarded a sanction of $2,525,958.35.

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    He prevented the painting from being sold as a painting painted by him for a large amount of money. Doig did not have, or purport to have, the ability or authority to prevent the painting that Doig asserted was painted by someone other than him from being sold at all. Screwing up the ability of the owner of the painting to sell at as made by him if he had made it would have unlawfully interfered with the economic rights of the painting's owner to profit from what it actually was. Also since the money damage claim is an intentional tort, showing mere confusion wouldn't suffice to win.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:07

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