Stolen Civil War Sword Will Return To Brown

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COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE – The District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has ordered the return of an 1863 ceremonial Tiffany & Co. sword to Brown University from the collector Donald Tharpe, an allegedly bona fida purchaser. The university received the sword as a gift in 1948 and lost possession between 1975 and 1977 likely due to theft. The university discovered its possible location as early as 1992 but did not file a claim for recovery until 2011. The court found that the university’s claim was not barred by laches because the university did not unreasonably delay filing suit and any such delay did not prejudice Tharpe, who knew about the claim as early as 1994 and did not investigate. ┬áTo continue reading, click here.

ARIS Commentary: The Brown University v. Tharpe case highlights the difficulty in predicting the outcome of litigation based on the factual and equitable doctrine of laches as well as the heavy investigatory burden on buyers to avoid acquiring stolen art and collectibles. Even when an original owner takes more than thirty years to pursue a claim, if the object is considered stolen through circumstantial evidence, a buyer does not take clear legal title despite the buyer-in-the-ordinary-course provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code.