DeWeerth v. Baldinger
38 F.3d 1266 (2d Cir.) cert. denied 513 U.S. 1001 (1994)
DeWeerth family owned an expensive Monet oil painting in Germany.During WWII, the painting was
stolen.The stolen painting
was eventually purchased by Baldinger.In 1982, the DeWeerths noticed that Baldinger had the
painting and sued for its return (replevin) in Federal Court (due to diversity jurisdiction)
Trial Court found for DeWeerth and ordered the painting returned.Baldinger appealed.
Appellate Court reversed.
Appellate Court held that the DeWeerths did not show reasonable
diligence in locating the stolen
York State law said that the Statute of Limitations runs out if you stop looking for your stolen
years later, in a totally different case, the New York Supreme Court held
that this Statute of Limitations
issue did not apply.
fact, they went as far as to criticize the Federal Appellate Court's
decision in DeWeerth's case.
on the New York Supreme Court ruling, DeWeerth asked for the case to be
reopened under FederalRule
Federal Trial Court felt that DeWeerth would have won the case if it had
been brought in New York State Court, instead of Federal Court.Therefore the judgment should be
the Erie Doctrine, they felt this
(See Erie Railroad Co. v. Thompkins (304 U.S. 64 (1938))).
Federal Appellate Court reversed.
Federal Appellate Court found that the Erie Doctrine does not stand for the proposition that a
plaintiff is entitled to reopen a Federal court case that was been closed
for several years in order to gain the benefit of a newly-announced
decision of a State Court.
Erie Doctrine just says that
Federal Courts are bound to follow State law on any matter of substantive
law not governed by Federal Statute.
Court found that the original Federal Appellate Court's decision
was based on how they read New York State law.As long as the Federal Court acts in good faith and
uses due diligence, they satisfy the Erie Doctrine.
because the New York State Supreme Court later ruled a different way,
there is no justification to reopen a closed case.