Law School Case Brief
Zendman v. Harry Winston, Inc. - 305 N.Y. 180, 111 N.E.2d 871 (1953)
Although possession alone is not enough to create an estoppel, the owner may be estopped from setting up his own title and the lack of title in the vendor as against a bona fide purchaser for value where the owner has clothed the vendor with possession and other indicia of title. The rightful owner may be estopped by his own acts from asserting his title. If he has invested another with the usual evidence of title, or an apparent authority to dispose of it, he will not be allowed to make claim against an innocent purchaser dealing on the faith of such apparent ownership.
Plaintiff appellant Zendman bought a diamond ring at at an auction held at the Brand gallery in New Jersey. Defendant respondent Harry Winston, Inc., a diamond merchant located in New York City, claimed ownership of the ring. Winston contended it had placed the ring with Brand on a memorandum which provided that it was received only for examination and selection and that the ring remained the property of Winston, to be returned on demand. Upon the receipt of the ring, Brand placed it in one of its public show windows, such display being with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner Winston. The Special Term trial court declined to grant declaratory judgment but granted judgment to plaintiff on defendant's counterclaim for replevin. Upon appeal, the Appellate Division, deciding that there was no basis for an "estoppel," reversed and directed judgment for defendant. Plaintiff Zendman sought further review to the Court of Appeal.
Was the plaintiff the rightful owner of the ring that he purchased, in good faith, from the auction house?
Reversing the appellate decision and affirming the special term's decision, the Court of Appeals of New York held that, pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 46:30-29, defendant respondent Winston was precluded on the principle of estoppel from claiming that the gallery was not authorized to sell the ring to plaintiff appellant Zendman. Plaintiff was an innocent purchaser and there was nothing to put her on notice that the gallery's title might be questionable. Further, defendant knew of the ring's display at the gallery but did nothing to inform the public that it was not for immediate sale. Also, such sale procedures were in the regular course of business between defendant and the gallery.
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