Appellee sued Appellant to recover a stolen painting. Appellant argued that the statute of limitations had passed.
Under New York law, the statute of limitations begins when a property owner demands the return of their stolen property and the good faith purchaser refuses.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (Appellee) brought suit against Rachel Lubell (Appellant) in state court to recover a Chagall painting stolen from Appellee in the late 1960s. Appellant had purchased the painting from an art gallery in 1967. Appellant argued under DeWeerth v. Baldinger that Appellee had failed to exercise due diligence in demanding recovery of the painting before 1986 and filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the statute of limitations had passed.
Was summary judgment proper on the basis that the Appellee had failed to exercise due diligence in demanding recovery of the painting without unreasonable delay?
No, a lack of due diligence is a factor but not determinative in cases of recovery of stolen paintings. The case is reversed and remanded.
The Court rejected the interpretation of New York’s statute of limitations in DeWeerth v. Baldinger for cases involving stolen paintings. The Court determined that it was contrary to New York policy to require reasonable diligence of the owner in locating the stolen painting. Instead, the Court instructed the trial court on remand to consider both the Appellee’s delay in demanding recovery and Appellant’s conduct when purchasing the painting.