Statute of limitations bug hits Huguette Clark estate

“Time-barred.” That’s what this abstract from the New York Law Journal calls one of the major possible glitches in filing lawsuits: you filed it too late.

Following the NYLJ tidbit is the far more fulsome New York Times article on the case, which fascinates a lot of people, probably because Huguette Clark was one weird heiress.

(By the way, Manhattan’s Surrogate Court is established in what, to me, is the most beautiful civic building in the City. You’ve seen its palatial first floor and stairway on TV, if you are a regular viewer of the old Law & Order.)

Hospital Overcomes Claims to Recover Heiress’ Gifts

Andrew Denney, New York Law Journal  

A Manhattan judge has ruled that the estate of a copper heiress seeking to recover more than $4 million in donations to the hospital where she spent her final years is time-barred from claiming that the hospital manipulated her into making the gifts.


From The New York Times:

A Manhattan Surrogate Court judge said the statute of limitations had expired in the case brought by the estate of Huguette Clark, the copper heiress.

Some significant Times paragraphs (not including the judge’s decision to permit claims against several individual donees, the nurses and doctors who took care of her):

A Manhattan Surrogate Court judge, Nora S. Anderson, ruled last week that the statute of limitations had expired for the estate to argue that officials at the hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, had manipulated Ms. Clark into donating.

After Ms. Clark’s death, a bitter legal feud arose over her estate. She made two wills within six weeks. One left most of the money to distant relatives, and the second cut out her relatives and made bequests to arts foundations, the hospital and people around her, including her doctors and nurses.

Ms. Clark donated $940,000 to the hospital between 1992 and 2002, giving large sums nearly every year in response to requests from hospital administrators. In 2002, she transferred to the hospital Edouard Manet’s “Pivoines dans une bouteille,” which later sold at auction for $3.5 million. That suit was settled out of court on the eve of trial in September 2013, creating a new $100 million arts foundation, donating $1 million to the hospital and leaving $10 million to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, where her father’s collection fills a wing. Ms. Clark’s distant relatives received about $34.5 million after taxes.

The settlement allowed the estate to pursue the claims to recover gifts she made outside the will.

However, Judge Anderson said last week that the law required the claims to have been made within three years of the last donation, in October 2002. [My emphasis]

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