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DeWeerth v. Baldinger

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
836 F.2d 103 (1987)


Gerda Dorothea DeWeerth (plaintiff) is a German citizen and the original owner of a painting by Claude Monet valued at over $500,000. The painting was stolen from her sister’s home in 1945 where it was sent to keep it safe during World War II. After DeWeerth discovered that the painting had been stolen, she wrote letters to an attorney, an art history professor, and the West German federal bureau of investigation over the course of three years requesting their assistance in locating the missing painting. None were able to assist and there is no evidence that DeWeerth followed up with any of these parties. In 1957, Edith Marks Baldinger (defendant) purchased the stolen painting from an art gallery in New York City. She did so in good faith and without any knowledge that it was stolen. Baldinger displayed the painting primarily in her home for twenty-six years. In 1982, DeWeerth’s nephew discovered that the art gallery had sold the stolen painting. He relayed this information to his aunt, who eventually sued Baldinger in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to recover the painting. There, the judge made a decision on the record and ordered Baldinger to return the painting to DeWeerth. The court also found that DeWeerth had exercised reasonable diligence in locating the painting. Baldinger appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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