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Case Summary

Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain; Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, 461 F. Supp. 2d 1157 (C.D. Cal. 2006); aff'd in part and dismissed in part, 580 F.3d 1048 (9th Cir. 2009); aff’d in part and dismissed in part en banc, 616 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2010); cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 3057 (U.S. 2011); remanded, sub nom. Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, No. 05-cv-3459 (C.D. Cal. 2012); rev’d in part and aff’d in part, remanded, 737 F.3d 613 (9th Cir. 2013); summary judgment granted, No. 05-cv-3459 (C.D. Cal. June 4, 2015); rev’d and remanded, No. 15-5550 (9th Cir. July 10, 2017).

This case, which concerns a painting that a Jewish art collector was forced to sell to the Nazis during World War II and ultimately became part of a museum collection operated by the Kingdom of Spain, was initially of interest because it raised a novel question:  whether the collector’s grandson, an American citizen, could sue Spain for the return of the painting, even though it was Nazi Germany, not Spain, that had stolen the work.  A federal appellate court allowed the action under the “expropriation exception" to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

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