- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — An art authority who was sued unfairly in a dispute over a painting he said was a forgery should receive $9.9 million in punitive damages, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled.

Steve Seltzer determined the watercolor “Lassoing a Longhorn,” which supposedly was signed by the painter C.M. Russell in 1913, was actually created by his own grandfather, artist O.C. Seltzer, a friend of Mr. Russell’s.

The painting is owned by Steve Morton, an heir to the Morton Salt fortune. As a Russell, the painting is worth $800,000; as a work by O.C. Seltzer, only about $80,000, according to court testimony.

Mr. Morton sued in 2002 in federal court, claiming the painting’s pedigree was damaged. But with nine affidavits backing Mr. Seltzer’s assessment, the federal lawsuit was dropped.

Mr. Seltzer then filed a malicious prosecution and abuse of process lawsuit in state court against Mr. Morton and his attorneys. In 2005, a jury awarded Mr. Seltzer $21.1 million. District Judge Dirk Sandefur later reduced the award to $9.9 million, which the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld last week.

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