Sculptor’s Collection Case Against Saudi Royals Revived

A Brooklyn, New York-based artist who claims the Saudi royal family owes him almost $12.6 million for 29 sculptures won the reinstatement of a lawsuit thrown out by a trial court judge last year.

A U.S. appellate court in Washington today revived the case Elli Bern Angellino brought against the Royal Family Al-Saud and 16 of its members in 2010.

Angellino said he had sent invoices and a notice that he had commenced the collection case to the Saudi embassy in Washington, steps that U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg last year ruled failed meet legal requirements. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court disagreed, ruling Boasberg failed to fairly apprise the artist, who acted as his own attorney, of what was required.

“Pro se litigants are allowed more latitude than litigants represented by counsel to correct defects in service of process and pleadings,” U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote for the majority.

Dissenting, U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the lower court had given Angellino “ample opportunity” to pursue the case during the 13 months it was pending.

The sculptures were designed in 2006 and 2007, and shipped to the royal family under an agreement requiring them either to return them or to pay for them. Angellino said they were retained without payment, according to today’s decision.

Absent formal notice that they had been sued, the Saudi royal family didn’t oppose Angellino’s claim in either court. The Saudi Embassy press office in Washington didn’t immediately reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is Angellino v. Royal Family Al-Saud, 11-7043, U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia (Washington).

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