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Posted: April 22, 2017

Collateral Estoppel Does Not Bar Claims Regarding Painting’s Ownership

On April 18, 2017, the First Department issued a decision in Reif v. Nagy, 2017 NY Slip Op. 02920, holding that collateral estoppel did not bar claims regarding a painting’s ownership, explaining:

In 2005, David Bakalar, a Massachusetts industrialist turned sculptor, brought suit against the heirs of Grunbaum seeking, inter alia, a declaration that he was the rightful owner of the Schiele work “Seated Woman,” a piece he had owned for over 40 years. Nagy’s contention that the dismissal in Bakalar, which was based upon application of the doctrine of laches, collaterally estops plaintiffs from pursuing their claims to two other Schiele pieces, “Woman in a Black Pinafore” and “Woman Hiding Her Face,” is misplaced. Collateral estoppel requires the issue to be identical to that determined in the prior proceeding, and requires that the litigant had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue. Neither of those requirements has been shown here where the purchaser, the pieces, and the time over which the pieces were held differ significantly. The three works are not part of a collection unified in legal interest such to impute the status of one to another.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

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