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View Full Version : Music Legal Advice - Statute of Limitations...


Vegas_Dave
05-03-2008, 03:06 PM
My company sells musical instruments. We have a customer (long time good customer) who brought in his old handmade professional flute that he wants to sell. The flute will likely fetch $6,000+.

The manufacturer's website features the ability for anyone to look up the serial number. Well, this flute was stolen in 1973 according to company records.

Now we (myself and the customer) are doing the right thing and are contacting the manufacturer (as they ask this in the stolen notice).

My question is what legally could happen. I would think that a flute stolen 35 years ago has likely had the statute of limitations run out by now.

Any ideas???

kstater
05-03-2008, 03:14 PM
Skin flute?

kstater
05-03-2008, 03:15 PM
But seriously, I'm not a lawyer, but I would agree that as far as criminal charges are concerned, it's probably past time. But I would think that the company that produced the flute might have cause to get it back.

alanm
05-03-2008, 03:28 PM
My company sells musical instruments. We have a customer (long time good customer) who brought in his old handmade professional flute that he wants to sell. The flute will likely fetch $6,000+.

The manufacturer's website features the ability for anyone to look up the serial number. Well, this flute was stolen in 1973 according to company records.

Now we (myself and the customer) are doing the right thing and are contacting the manufacturer (as they ask this in the stolen notice).

My question is what legally could happen. I would think that a flute stolen 35 years ago has likely had the statute of limitations run out by now.

Any ideas???
I'm going to assume that your customer acquired the flute from someone else. That said, Any legal hassles from 35 years ago would have long since expired. I suppose you could try to see if the original owner is still around and wants his flute back. But if you can't find the original owner I would guess that possession is 9/10th of the law.:shrug:

angelo
05-03-2008, 03:28 PM
What state is the company in ?
Each state has it's own statute of limitations I believe.

Demonpenz
05-03-2008, 03:29 PM
This one time at band camp

angelo
05-03-2008, 03:33 PM
It looks like anywhere from three to five years for basic to grand theft

stlchiefs
05-03-2008, 03:35 PM
Here's what could possibly happen:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,181988,00.html

Vegas_Dave
05-03-2008, 03:38 PM
But seriously, I'm not a lawyer, but I would agree that as far as criminal charges are concerned, it's probably past time. But I would think that the company that produced the flute might have cause to get it back.

I doubt the manufacturer has ANY claim since they sold it to someone else.

The manufacturer is in Boston, MA.

This person purchased it years ago from the widow of another pro musician who purchased it through a teacher at least 20 years ago.

Vegas_Dave
05-03-2008, 03:42 PM
Here's what could possibly happen:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,181988,00.html

Interesting.

stlchiefs
05-03-2008, 03:45 PM
If the instrument has changed hands multiple times throughout the years all through legal transactions for just consideration your client will not get fingered for a crime. On the other hand if the true and original owner is found your client will most likely have to turn over the instrument to the rightful owner.

Vegas_Dave
05-03-2008, 03:50 PM
If the instrument has changed hands multiple times throughout the years all through legal transactions for just consideration your client will not get fingered for a crime. On the other hand if the true and original owner is found your client will most likely have to turn over the instrument to the rightful owner.

And he is prepared to turn it over if legally ordered to.

Its an interesting quandry. Its a shame because the customer has had this for 10+ years and has used it as a tool to make his living. He no longer needs this level of flute as he has other more modern ones, but he does need the money.

I will let you know how it turns out.

catfish307
05-03-2008, 05:35 PM
I don't believe the manufacturer has any right to claim it since they didn't own it at the time it was stolen (I assume). And I would assume that a insurance claim was paid to the victim for the theft, so if anyone would have a right to it, it would be the insurance company. And since we know what insurance companies do to us, piss on them.

stlchiefs
05-03-2008, 05:37 PM
I don't believe the manufacturer has any right to claim it since they didn't own it at the time it was stolen (I assume). And I would assume that a insurance claim was paid to the victim for the theft, so if anyone would have a right to it, it would be the insurance company. And since we know what insurance companies do to us, piss on them.

True, if it was insured when it was stolen. That was a key point in the article I posted. The Mustang was not insured for theft when it was stolen.

If it was not insured and you find the owner, hopefully never expecting to see it again and grateful for your customer's honesty, they are willing to pay a little reward. $$

banyon
05-03-2008, 08:35 PM
Statutes of limitations toll (stop running) in certain situations. Many times this is true if the defendant (civil or criminal) was out of state. So you would want to know what happened, when and where. Also, keep in mind the statute of limitations is just the timeframe to file an action. If the action was filed, and the filing party met any other required timelines on reviving the action, then it could still be actionable.

So, being that this flute is worth some $, I would want to check carefully to make sure an action hadn't ben filed by the rightful owner or the State (in a criminal action).

That's all pretty unlikely though, but I'm just thinking worst case scenario here. Probably it's been long forgotten.

Baby Lee
05-03-2008, 08:42 PM
Theft of artwork is a subset you might want to look into. It may well be that the statute has run on any cause of action for your friend's possession of this flute, but the sale and the original owner's response to said sale may create a new CoA with a whole new statute.
This is a pretty murky area, that's gotten some increased scrutiny as victims of Nazi thievery continue to track down lost and stolen works, but part of the calculus is how diligent the owner has been in trying to locate the stolen item. These matters are often decided in equity, balancing a number of factors, including laches, adverse possession, discovery and due diligence.
Kind of a Catch-22 here. Most sellers sell with 'clean hands' ie, no knowledge that their property had been stolen in the past, and once it's sold the dealings are between the purchaser and the original owner with the seller free and clear.
Here, with knowledge of alleged stolen nature, your friend faces liability from BOTH the original owner and the buyer for selling with unclean hands. Probably best to continue to possess it and not try to sell it. This goes doubly if the database your friend searched online eixsted at the time he originally purchased it, and he knew or should have known of it's existence.

Amnorix
05-03-2008, 09:28 PM
What state is the company in ?
Each state has it's own statute of limitations I believe.


And yet, no state has a 30+ year statute of limitations on theft...

Amnorix
05-03-2008, 09:39 PM
Not sure what jurisdiction you're in, but it looks like your guy has no legal title to the item at all, if he's in Missouri. I suspect this is the standard rule and would apply in most/all jurisdictions. As a result, he can't legally pass good title on to any subsequent buyer.

A purchaser of goods acquires only that title which the transferor had or had power to transfer. Section 400.2-403(1). In this case, the record reflects that McNew pled guilty to theft of the computer equipment he sold to Paulino and which Paulino then sold to Respondents. A thief's title to stolen property is void. Moore Equipment Co. v. Halferty, 980 S.W.2d 578, 585 (Mo.App. W.D. 1998). A void title is no title at all. As McNew had absolutely no title to transfer under any circumstances, all subsequent transfers of the property were likewise void.

Respondents counter by arguing that under Section 400.2-403, McNew had the power to transfer the equipment to Paulino. The statute provides, inter alia, that a person with voidable title can transfer good title to a good-faith purchaser for value, even if "the delivery was procured through fraud punishable as larcenous under the criminal law." (emphasis added). Respondents' argument is premised on the faulty assumption that McNew had "voidable" title to the components he transferred to Paulino. As discussed previously, McNew pled guilty to theft of the components. His title to the components was therefore void and he had no power to pass good title to Paulino. As Paulino did not acquire good title, he had no power to pass good title on to the Respondents. The trial court therefore erred in finding that, as bona fide purchasers, the Respondents acquired good title to the equipment and were entitled to a judgment against Computer Renaissance for the value of the equipment they had acquired from Paulino.

http://www.courts.mo.gov/courts/pubopinions.nsf/6c38d75d12b7d96c8625661f004bc89e/764030b211d58d1a86256b1b007996ca?OpenDocument

Vegas_Dave
05-05-2008, 10:27 AM
So the manufacturer today emailed me that since it has been over 30+ years and there is known record of multiple hands changing on the flute through "legitimate" sale, they no longer consider the flute stolen.

So they have removed the notice on their website about the flute being stolen.

Interesting.

The manufacturer is not the owner of the flute, so I think they maintain that as a courtesy. This is great for newer flutes (in the $10k-$20k range).