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Reif v. Nagy - 2018 NY Slip Op 28253, 61 Misc. 3d 319, 80 N.Y.S.3d 629 (Sup. Ct.)

Rule:

A motion for summary judgment will be granted once a movant has made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, and furnished sufficient evidence to eliminate any triable issues of material fact.

Facts:

In 2002, a Vienna court declared plaintiffs, Milos Vavra and estate of Leon Fischer, to be heirs of Franz Friedrich (Fritz) Grunbaum. Grunbaum had been a cabaret performer of Jewish Viennese descent living in Austria at the time of the Anschluss, and was a vocal critic of the ***. Grunbaum became a victim of Nazi persecution who was arrested in 1938 and murdered in the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1941. Prior to his arrest, Grunbaum was a prolific art collector who owned hundreds of works of art, including many by Schiele.  Defendants, Richard Nagy and Richard Nagy Ltd., the current possessors of the artworks, asserted that they have good title to the artworks stemming from Grunbaum's sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs, who sold 54 works, including the artworks, to a gallery in Switzerland.

In an 2015 email,, plaintiffs' attorney made a demand to defendants to return the artworks to plaintiffs. The demand was refused, and plaintiffs brought an action for replevin in the New York court. The parties all moved for summary relief, each side contending that there are no triable issues of fact.

Issue:

Are the plaintiffs entitled to summary judgment in their replevin action to recover stolen artworks from defendants, art collector and gallery?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

After reviewing the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016, which extended the statute of limitations in which a claim may be brought to six years from the time that the artwork's identity and location, and a claimant's possessory interest were discovered, the state court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that they had established a superior right of possession, and defendants neither presented evidence nor raised a triable issue of fact showing the artworks were not stolen.

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