In 1959, Art Wall Jr. obtained his most notable career victory by winning the Masters Tournament and being awarded his first and only green jacket. A few years later, the Wall family claims the treasured green jacket that Wall wore as an Augusta champion disappeared from his family’s’ home and was not discovered until two weeks ago when it was put up for auction on a the golf memorabilia website www.greenjacketauctions.com.
Bashian, likened the facts of Wall’s lost jacket to those in the 1991 New York Court of Appeals case Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation v. Lubell, where the court ruled that because many other difficulties exist for a rightful owner in locating and recovering artwork that may have been lost or stolen, such owner should not also have to bear the additional burden in demonstrating due diligence in tracking down the lost art. He added that, “with a potential good-faith purchaser lined up to make a substantial purchase, there should be absolute certainty on their part as to how the jacket was acquired initially.”
Under New York law, an action to recover damages for the unlawful taking of one’s property, such as sports memorabilia, must be commenced within three years, from the time the theft occurs.
However, a rightful owner’s replevin action for the return of such property against who may be an innocent purchaser does not accrue until the rightful owner demands the return of the stolen property from the possessor and such possessor refuses to return it. As a matter of substantive law, the good-faith purchaser has not done any wrong until he/she refuses a demand for the return. Although, in New York, an owner’s failure to exercise due diligence in locating a lost chattel has not been held to be a factor in determining the accrual of the statute of limitations, it may be relevant with respect to a trial court adjudicating the good faith purchaser’s equitable defense of laches. If you have a legal issue concerning sports memorabilia and would like to speak with one of the sports memorabilia attorneys at Bashian & Papantoniou, please contact us at (516) 279-1555 to schedule a consultation.
At Bashian & Papantoniou, our sports memorabilia attorneys in Long Island and New York provide invaluable advice and guidance to buyers, sellers and auctioneers on various legal issues that may arise in connection with a sports memorabilia transaction.
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