Dunnington recently won an important victory at the New York Court of Appeals paving the way for the return of Nazi looted artworks to a family of Holocaust victims.
On June 11, 2020, the New York Court of Appeals determined that it had no jurisdiction to hear art dealer Richard Nagy’s challenge to a unanimous July 19, 2019 Appellate Division, First Department victory in favor of Dunnington’s clients awarding title and possession of the artworks. The Nazi-looted artworks were spotted at art dealer Richard Nagy’s booth at the Park Avenue Armory in November, 2015. In 2018, Justice Charles Ramos granted summary judgment against Nagy and determined that the artworks were stolen from Fritz Grunbaum. Justice Ramos ordered the return of two artworks by the artist Egon Schiele, Woman in Black Pinafore (1911) and Woman Hiding Her Face (1912) to the heirs of Holocaust victim Fritz Grunbaum.
Grunbaum, who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 in Vienna and who died in the Dachau Concentration Camp was a Jewish cabaret performer who served as a model for the Joel Grey character in Cabaret. Justice Ramos found that Nagy had acted in bad faith and awarded damages and costs, including pre-judgment interest running from November 15, 2015. The Appellate division affirmed Justice Ramos’ finding that Nagy had acted in bad faith and affirmed an award of damages, prejudgment interest and costs on the conversion claims.
In early 2020, Nagy obtained an order from the trial court severing the damages calculation. Nagy represented to the trial court that severance would permit him to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals, however, rejected Nagy’s strategy, determining that claims cannot be severed from their corresponding remedies. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction because damages had not yet been calculated and made part of the judgment. This ruling clarifies that unsuccessful litigants cannot use severance as a delay tactic to create multiple appellate reviews. An appeal to the New York Court of Appeals lies only from a final judgment that includes an appropriate damages award.
Dunnington’s litigation team provides full litigation and alternative dispute resolution services including appellate practice in federal and state courts.