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DeWeerth v. Baldinger

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Brief Fact Summary.

Appellee demanded Appellant return her stolen painting in 1982, after the painting went missing in 1945. Appellant refused and Appellee brought a lawsuit for recovery. Appellant argued the statute of limitations had passed.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Under New York Law § 214(3), a property owner must use due diligence to locate their stolen property in order for their demand for its return to be considered timely under the statute of limitations.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In such circumstances, we must do the best we can in estimating what the state court would rule to be its law.

View Full Point of Law

Gerda Dorothea DeWeerth’s (Appellee) Monet painting was stolen in 1945. In 1982, she learned that Edith Marks Baldinger (Appellant) had the painting and sent a letter demanding she return it. Appellant had bought the painting, in good faith, from a third party in 1957. Appellant refused the demand, and Appellee commenced this lawsuit in federal court, under diversity jurisdiction, to recover the painting. Appellant argued that the statute of limitations had passed.


Did Appellee exercise reasonable diligence in locating the stolen painting before demanding its return from Appellant?


No, Appellee did not exercise reasonable diligence. The District Court’s judgment is reversed.


Based on New York’s policy favoring good faith purchasers and other courts’ approach favoring limited recovery time, the Court determined that lack of due diligence in locating a stolen painting constituted an unreasonable delay under the statute of limitations. Here, Appellee’s minimal investigation efforts before 1982 were thus an unreasonable delay, making her demand for recovery barred by the statute of limitations.

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