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Porter v. Wertz

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.53 N.Y.2d 696, 439 N.Y.S.2d 105, 421 N.E.2d 500 (1981)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff- Appellant allowed Von Maker (who posed as Wertz) borrow a painting to decide if Von Maker wished to buy the painting. Von Maker eventually sold the painting to a third party who resold the painting to a person in Venezuela, and Plaintiff- Appellant seeks to recover the painting.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Equitable estoppel as a defense against the rightful owner is not available to Defendants unless each element of the defense is proven, specifically, that the rightful owner gave indicia of ownership to another who had the apparent right to sell and that the buyer exercised good faith in the purchase.

Facts. Plaintiff- Appellant (Porter) owned a painting by Utrillo named “Chateau de Lion-sur-Mer,” which he loaned to one who was actually named Von Maker but was posing as Wertz. The loan of the painting was made along with a purchase of another painting, which Wertz agreed to pay for in a deposit and a series of notes. When the first note was not honored, Plaintiff- Appellant sought to retrieve the Utrillo from Von Maker (posing as Wertz). Plaintiff- Appellant could not get in touch with Von Maker, but hired an investigator and discovered that he had not been dealing with Wertz, but had been dealing with Von Maker, who had a long history of fraudulent dealings. Thereafter, Plaintiff- Appellant made a contract with Von Maker (represented by counsel) which addressed the Utrillo and its return. The contract stated that the Utrillo was owned by Plaintiff- Appellant and that Von Maker had placed the Utrillo on consignment with a client and would, after 90 days, either pay $30,000 to Plai
ntiff- Appellant or return the Utrillo. Von Maker failed to perform either the payment or the return of the Utrillo. The same contract between Plaintiff- Appellant and Von Maker called for Von Maker to give a Cranach (another painting) to Plaintiff- Appellant should the 90 days run without Von Maker either paying Plaintiff- Appellant the $30,000 or returning the Utrillo. Von Maker, meanwhile, had used the real Peter Wertz to sell the Utrillo to Defendant Feigen, an art dealer, for $20,000. Thereafter, the Utrillo was bought from Feigen by Brenner, who sold the painting to a person in Venezuela. Plaintiff- Appellant then sued Feigen and Wertz for the return of the Utrillo or damages. At the trial court the Defendant Feigen raised the affirmative defenses of statutory estoppel and equitable estoppel. The trial court held the statutory estoppel defense to be inapplicable, but did sustain the defense of equitable estoppel and dismissed the Plaintiff- Appellant’s complaint. Plaintiff appea

Issue. Does the defense of equitable estoppel or the defense of statutory estoppel raised by Defendant Feigen bar recovery by the Plaintiff?
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