Testimony over, car auction fraud case in judge's hands

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Dr. Terry Bennett said this 1952 custom BMW should've fetched some $600,000 but instead sold for less than $200,000. (Courtesy photo/Dr. Terry Bennett)

DOVER - The contract fraud lawsuit brought by a prominent local physician and car collector against a Florida auction company drew to a close on Tuesday at Strafford County Superior Court.

The nearly two-year lawsuit pitted Dr. Terry Bennett of Quick Care Clinic against Auctions American who were contracted to conduct a 2012 auction of many of Bennett's most prized automobiles after Bennett was told he had just months to live following a cancer diagnosis.

Bennett, of Rollinsford, is seeking $1.6 million in damages against Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Auctions America by RM, Inc., accusing them of slipshod marketing of some of his classic offerings in the runup to the auction.

The bench trial is being presided over by Strafford County Superior Court Judge Mark E. Howard.

On Tuesday Paul McInnis of Paul McInnis Inc., a Seacoast auctioneering firm, testified for the defense, while the last witness for the plaintiff was Dr. Bennett's wife, Piper.

The testimony portion of the trial is now over, Bennett said today, and will be followed by written memos sent by the lawyers representing the two sides to Howard, who's final decision is expected next month.

During earlier testimony in the case last fall, the now 79-year-old Bennett testified that in the summer of 2012 doctors diagnosed him with cancer and told him he had 90 days to live, so he wanted to quickly find an auctions company that could service a broad range of collectibles, from vintage race and fancy cars, to motorcycles and bicycles to stained glass and antique signs.

When a friend pointed him to RM Auctions, he said he went to one of their events and was very impressed.

He said he discussed RM doing his auction and was pleased with what they said, noting that he wanted to quickly liquidate much of his estate to help his family expecting his death was imminent.

"I was desperate and happy with what they said," he testified

Then he said he was told Auctions American - not RM - would be doing the auction but the service would be the same.

"I was lulled into a sense of security," he said.

However, as the Sept. 21-22, 2012, auction drew near he realized the advertising was subpar and not attracting world-class collectors that he felt his items deserved to get the best price.

The recurring argument featured at trial by his attorney, Peter McGrath of Concord, was that Auctions America didn't provide the adequate provenance, or lineage, of his collectible cars to draw the high rollers that would produce a better bottom line.

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