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ANSWERS TO SHORT-ANSWER QUESTIONS

 

1.  No. To begin with, anyone whose chain of title includes a thief cannot prevail over the “true” owner. But the true owner’s right to recover the property can become time-barred. The modern rule on the running of the statute of limitations is sometimes called the “discovery” rule; by that rule, the statute of limitations on an action to recover stolen property normally does not begin to run against the record owner until the owner knows, or should know, the identity of the possessor. But the rule assumes that the owner has made prompt reasonable efforts to find the possessor or to put the world on notice of the stolen property. Here, Oscar did not do this; for instance, he failed to list the painting in the information bank, a step that a reasonably diligent owner would normally take. Therefore, a court will probably hold that the statute began to run against him immediately. In that event, Anita became the owner by adverse possession in 1990.

2.  Yes. As a general rule, a seller cannot convey better title than that which he holds. This is true of the unknown thief. Therefore, Dealer never got good title (regardless of whether he thought he did), and could not in turn give good title to Arnold. Consequently, even though Arnold paid full value and was completely innocent, he will lose the car. (Statutes in most states set up a certificate of title program, which would have protected Arnold in this situation.)

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