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Lieber v. Mohawk Arms, Inc. - 64 Misc. 2d 206, 314 N.Y.S.2d 510 (Sup. Ct. 1970)

Rule:

N.Y. C. P.L.R. 7101 provides for the recovery of a chattel by one who has the superior right to possession.

Facts:

While serving in the army during World War II, the owner and his companions entered Adolph Hitler's apartment and took home Hitler's uniform jacket and cap and some of his decorations and personal jewelry. The possession of these articles was publicly known. The owner's collection was later stolen by his chauffeur, who sold it to a New York dealer in historical Americana. The dealer sold the collection to the purchaser, who bought the items in good faith. When the owner discovered the location of his stolen property, he filed an action against the purchaser. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The defendant asked for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff cannot succeed in the suit since he "never obtained good and legal title to this collection", that "the collection properly belongs to the occupational military authority and/or the Bavarian Government."

Issue:

Did the owner have superior right over the purchaser in good faith?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court granted summary judgment in favor of the owner and held that the purchaser, despite his good faith, did not have title because his possession was derived from a thief. The court rejected the purchaser's argument that the owner was not entitled to recover the property because he did not have good title to the collection. The court concluded tha, under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 7101, t the owner had a superior right to possession than the good-faith purchaser.

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