**O'Keeffe v. Snyder (1980); pg. 145, briefed 9/27/94
Prepared by Roger Martin (http://people.qualcomm.com/rmartin/)

Facts: O'Keeffe is the painter who painted several paintings that she claims were stolen from her studio in 1946. She did not advertise that they were missing until 1972 when she registered them as stolen with an Art Dealers Association. Snyder bought the paintings in question in 1975 from a dealer who claims that they were in his family since perhaps as early as 1941-1943 (before the claimed theft). O'Keeffe discovered the paintings in Snyder's gallery in 1976 and instituted an action of replevin to recover them. Snyder claims both that the statute of limitations for replevin of chattels had run, and that he had held the paintings in adverse possession, through tacking with the dealer's family, for over 30 years. Trial court issued summary judgment for Snyder, holding that the statute of limitations had commenced running on the date of the original theft. Appellate court reversed and entered judgment for O'Keeffe holding that Snyder had not proven the elements of adverse possession.

Issue: Who has best title to the paintings?

Holding: 1. Unlike in real estate adverse possessions, in cases involving personal chattels, a cause of action will not accrue, and thus the statute of limitations will not begin to run, until the injured party discovers, or by reasonable diligence should have discovered, facts which form the basis of the action. (Discovery Rule).

Dicta: 2. The expiration of the statute of limitations bars the remedy to recover, and also vests good title in the possessor. 3. In establishing adverse possession of personal chattels, tacking of periods of possession between parties in privity with each other is permitted in the same way as with real estate.

Reasoning: 1. The literal language of the statute of limitations results in harsh holdings when the property in question is one which is easily concealed, or its display is not visible broadly enough to put the owner on sufficient notice of the identity of the possessor (analogy to jewelry worn). It would encourage larceny to hold that the strict letter of the statute would prevent the owner from recovering an item of which he never knew the identity of the possessor. 2. Before the statute runs out, the possessor has a voidable title against all others but the true owner. To leave the title in the original owner after adverse possession would not put issues to rest that were deserving of resolution because of their age and action of the owner. 3. Not to permit tacking would enable the original owner to have rights much longer than the statute of limitations, and put a subsequent buyer in a worse position than the person who took it wrongfully in the first place.