Idle legal Q: Statute of Limitation vs. ownership of the loot

There is a statute of limitations on taxes. I think it’s 3 years. Also a federal tax lien is good for only 5 years. However, if there is evasion (or fraud), the statute is tolled.

Excuse me. “Innocent purchaser.” There is no BFP on stolen goods.

Geez, shut UP about the frickin’ Shawmut job! I told the guys we shouldn’t include “Motormouth Starvin’”, but nooooo, you were all “Honest, guys, I’ll keep it on the downlow.” I shoulda known…

I mean who uses a word like “downlow”? Somebody who has NO grasp of the concept, that’s who.

Look, I’d like to point out that the OP is purely hypothetical. I mean, Rockefeller Center’s not missing a big golden statue, is it?

This is pertinent-yet-relevant:

For those playing along: I assume “BFP” refers to the concept of a “bona fide purchaser for value.”

Thanks. I kept looking for where the first person to use the term here defined it or included a link… I was starting to feel stupid: “Does everyone else just know this?”

Being a bona fide purchaser does not necessarily save your title and in any case is irrelevant with respect to limitation. BFP is on the merits of the claim itself while Limitation is whether a claim can be brought at all.

Folks are still recovering art works stolen by the Nazis Even stuff that’s changed hands many times.

Just because a person cannot be tried for a theft due to the S/L doesn’t mean he can keep the stolen items. They are not his, and an action in replevin can get them back. I think similarly even if a civil action in tort is barred by the S/L, the goods stolen are not the thief’s and the rightful owner can get them back by an action in replevin or unjust enrichment. There’s no S/L in claiming your rightful property. Laches or abandonment can be an affirmative defense if the party has not made a good faith effort in attempting to retrieve his property after a reasonable amount of time.

I think that’s what we have been overlooking. S/L prevents a person from being sued or tried for an act he committed. There is no S/L for an in rem proceeding, wherein the defendant is the property stolen, or even if the person is the defendant, he is not being sued individually, but as the possessor of property which is the object of the suit.

This may be something that varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but my understanding of limitations law in Canada is that civil actions in replevin and other attempts to regain personal property are subject to limitation periods. For example, the Ontario Limitations Act, 2002 has a general two year limitation period, subject to the discoverability rule (s. 4) and an ultimate 15 year limitation period (s. 15). The Act applies to all court proceedings (ss. 2, 4) without any exception for actions to recover personal property (s. 16). In fact, it provides a special rule for the application of limitation periods with respect to calculating time for actions for recovery of personal property when there has been an acknowledgement (s. 13). Nor are actions in rem excluded from the limitation periods.

That’s kind of strange (I studied law in the US, so no real knowledge of Canadian law). The reason that statutes of limitation don’t apply to cases in equity is that the courts of equity and law are/were seperate - with equity growing out of the courts of chancery in england as an alternative to the overly form specific system of writs at law in England. So, with statutes being laws, they would typically have no effect in equity. Recovery of goods, in replevin, is an equitable action and at least in American common law only subject to laches, and not statutes of limitation.

In the US, even if courts of equity and law are merged, there is still some seperation - constitutionally speaking, the right to a jury trial only applies in cases at law, not cases in equity (at the federal level, at least), in Delaware, they still have a court of chancery, questions of law and fact are still seperated by the Dairy Queen doctrine, etc.

So the idea of passing a law to regulate equity is kind of a non-sequitur to someone who hasn’t really seen it before.

I’m amazed: I asked what I thought was a simple, straightforward question. Three days later it’s still be debated. :cool:

Limitation is anything but straightforward.

Darth Panda, Canadian courts have tended to follow the English courts, which have held that the merger of law and equity achieved by the Judicature Act, 1873 was total. Our law recognizes the different origins of law and equity, which may have some implications for certain issues, but generally we have a unified system. There’s certainly no constitutional implications such as the civil jury issue you mention under the US Constitution.

As well, recent limitations acts have moved away from the model of particular limitation periods for particular causes of action, and instead have gone to the model of a general limitation period for all court proceedings, subject only to particular exceptions for certain types of actions. Since there’s no exception for particular equitable actions in the Ontario Act, I would presume that it would apply to replevin, even though that action has its roots in equity.

I would think the same analysis would apply to the actions in rem that barbitu8 referred to (and I’m not sure that an action to recover personal property from a particular person would qualify as an action in rem in any event under our law, but I admit that I’m not that versed in in rem actions.

In the case of a thief or innocent purchaser, the original writ at law would be detinue sur trover. The equitable alternative would be replevin.

The basic rule in the US, is that were an adequate remediy exists at law, no action in equity is premitted - with the simplest dividing point being the question of whether the remedy is monetary compensation.

Art and land have always traditionally been regarded as unique and therefore reasonable to be recovered in specie. But courts can make case by case decisions as to whether an equitable remedy is available. In the US, if an equitable remedy were being sought, no jury trial would be available (at the federal level, varying by state) and laches would apply rather than statutes of limitations.

Keep in mind that it’s been a few years since I finished law school, and I don’t work in the law, so take all of this with a little salt :slight_smile:

The Canadian statute is not that clear as to any action against property itself (in rem proceeding).

The Act refers to relief from a person. If the defendant is property, this act seems not to apply. I confess that I got my law degree 40 years ago and have never practiced law. However, I have seen cases in rem regarding real property wherein the defendant was “a parcel of land…”. The defendant could be a statute. I don’t read that act applying in those situations.

Why does that surprise you? Lawyers are all master debaters.

This is true. My own foolishness, I guess, to imagine a legal question would have a clear cut yes or no answer. :wink:

If legal questions had simple yes or no answers, there would be no place for the court system. Exams in law schools are not multiple choice. Answers require analyses of all the issues and explanations as to how the law applies to the facts given. There is no right or wrong answer. You have to give solid rationales for you conclusions. As long as the rationale is based on correct legal principles applied correctly to the facts, you get full credit.