Recovered Art Claim

The Boston Globe ran a piece on a painting that was stolen back in 1975. The painting was valued at $25,000.00 by an appraiser, and the insurance company paid the claim in the amount of $32,500.00. There were several other items stolen, but the policy was limited to $32,500.00.

The painting was located, discovered and turned in to the Concord police. The painting was now said to be valued at between $400,000 and $800,000 and the insurance company was claiming ownership.

Many times the fine print favors the insurance company, but in this case there was a statement in the contract that allowed the claimant (now the estate) to either pay the $25,000.00 back and reclaim the painting if found, or return simply return it to the insurance company. Given the increase value, the estate of course wanted the painting and to return the $25,000.00. The Insurance company believed it should now own the painting.  So off to the courts the case goes.

Massachusetts courts ruled in favor of the claimant's estate which now gets ownership of the painting which has increased tremendously in value and only has to pay the $25,000.00 back. The main decisions appears to be the contract wording use the term "or".

I dont really think this is totally fair for the insurance company,  but that is what was in the contract and I assume it was surely their contract. Chalk one up to the little guy

The Globe reports

One Beacon Insurance Group LLC, the successor to Northern Assurance, believing the painting was worth from $400,000 to $800,000, argued that the painting belonged to the company.

But the appeals court ruled, in a nine-page decision written by Judge Cynthia J. Cohen, that an agreement signed by Thompson allowed her estate two options: to turn the painting over to the insurance company or to simply pay the insurance company back the $25,000 it had paid out.

"The plain and unambiguous language … anticipates the possible reacquisition of the lost or stolen property, and, by the use of the word 'or,' provides that the insured may resort to either of two methods of compensating the insurer should that occur," the court said.

"One alternative is that the insured may turn over the recovered property to the insurer; however, the second alternative … is that the insured may pay back the amount that the insurer paid for that particular loss," the court said, upholding a lower court decision.

The picture was painted by Angelica Kauffman, a Swiss painter who worked in Italy and England, mostly in the neoclassical style, the court said.
To read the short but interesting article, click HERE.

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