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Lawsuit accusing Christie's of mishandling sale is dismissed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit accusing Christie's auction house of failing to recognize a valuable drawing by Leonardo da Vinci and selling it for a fraction of its true worth.

The drawing was worth more than $100 million, but Christie's incorrectly identified it as the work of an unknown German artist, according to the lawsuit filed by its former owner Jeanne Marchig who asked Christie's to handle its sale.

Christie's sold the drawing for $21,850 at an auction in January 1998.

More than 11 years later, in July 2009, Marchig said she was told by a Christie's expert that the drawing had been attributed to da Vinci, a finding she said was backed up by other experts.

She sued Christie's in May 2010, claiming the auction house had been careless and failed to investigate the origins of the drawing adequately.

But U.S. District Court Judge John Koetl tossed the case out on Tuesday, ruling that too much time had passed since the sale for Marchig's claims to be legitimate.

A London-based art dealer, Simon Dickinson, valued the drawing at more than $100 million, according to court documents. At the time of the sale, Marchig owned the drawing with her husband Giannino, who has since died.

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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