Brief Fact Summary.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld an Indiana law that states, until the rightful owner of personal property could reasonably have discovered through due diligence that someone has possessed such property, the tolling period of adverse possession does not begin.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Until the rightful owner of personal property could have reasonably discovered another person possessed the original owner’s property through due diligence, the adverse possession period does not begin to toll.
The Church of Cyprus (Plaintiff) in the late 1970’s during a time of war, were the victims of theft. Among the items stolen, were holy mosaic relics. Eventually, the mosaic relics were sold at an auction by Peg Goldberg (Defendant) and brought back to the United States. The Defendant at the time never took steps to locate the original owner of the mosaics. Eventually the Plaintiff was able to discover the location of the relics and brought suit to recover them. The District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
If the true owner could have discovered through due diligence that another person possessed his personal property, although a significant time has passed, is the suit timely filed?
Yes. The proper way to recover personal property that is now possessed by another person is through a replevin action. Furthermore, the adverse possession does not begin to accrue until, through due diligence, the rightful owner could have discovered the item.
The concurring opinion believes the court does not need to apply the due diligence rule to the case at bar in order to determine when the statute of limitations began to accrue. The minority iterates that when committing fraud by concealing facts; failing to locate the rightful owner,the adverse possession statute of limitations does not accrue until the true owner discovers and possesses actual knowledge of the whereabouts of the stolen item.
The concurring opinion appears to be more favorable to those who are victims of stolen property in comparison to the majority opinion. The majority opinion allows the would be thief to obtain stolen property and show that the true owner through due diligence could have discovered the property.