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DeWeerth v. Baldinger

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Facts: Deweerth owned a Monet painting before WWII. Near the end of the war, Soldiers were quartered in the home where the painting was being kept, and after they left the painting was missing. Eventually the painting turned up elsewhere and was purchased by Baldinger. From 1957 to the time of discovery, it was published in a book that could be found in a museum near the Deweerth's place of residence. In the '80s, Deweerth discovered that the painting was on display in America and eventually found that Baldinger was the owner. Deweert demanded the painting returned. NY statute of limitations for recovery of stolen property limits the suit to three years after the action accrued. In the case of a good-faith purchase of stolen property, the statute begins to run when the owner demands that the stolen goods be returned and that demand is refused. But, that demand may not be unreasonable delayed.

Procedural History: Deweerth commenced action in District Court. Judge found that Deweerth had superior title, and the action was timely b/c she had exercised reasonable diligence in finding the painting.

Arguments: Baldingerer: the delay is unreasonable. Deweerth: that's never been applied to an owner that doesn't know who owns the property or where it is.

Judgment: Reversed.

Reasons: Deweerth's investigation was minimal. It's unfair to subject the purchaser of art to repossession of his artwork at any time after the purchase.