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Wallace Wood Props. v. Wood

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 24, 2015

WALLACE WOOD PROPERTIES, Plaintiff,
v.
TATJANA WOOD, Defendant v.

Page 494

For Wallace Wood Properties, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff: M. Kelly Tillery, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pepper Hamilton, LLP(Phil), Philadelphia, PA; Brian Ronald Zurich, Pepper Hamilton LLP (Princeton), Princeton, NJ; Megan Kearney, PRO HAC VICE, Pepper Hamilton, LLP(Phil), Philadelphia, PA.

For Tatjana Wood, an individual, Defendant: Joel Lawrence Hecker, LEAD ATTORNEY, Russo & Burke, New York, NY.

Page 495

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, Wallace Wood Properties (" WWP" ), brings this action in conversion and replevin seeking damages for and the return of artwork allegedly in the possession of Defendant, Tatjana Wood. Defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, claiming that Plaintiff's second amended complaint (" SAC" ) is barred by the statute of limitations and laches and fails to state a cause of action. The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a)(1). The parties agree that the Plaintiff's claims are governed by New York law. (Joint Prelim. Pre-Trial Statement ¶ 5.)

The Court has carefully reviewed and considered the submissions of both parties. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.

Background

The following relevant facts are taken from the complaint or documents appended thereto and are assumed to be true. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009).

Mr. Wallace Wood's Will and Legacy

Wallace Wood was a famed comic book writer and illustrator whose work has been featured in well-known comic books published by Marvel Comics (" Marvel" ) and EC Comics. (SAC ¶ 6.) Defendant was Mr. Wood's first wife. The couple divorced in the 1960s, two decades before Mr. Wood's death, which occurred in 1981. (Id. ¶ ¶ 7-11.) In his will, Mr. Wood bequeathed all " bank accounts, whether savings, checking, Certificates of Deposit, or otherwise" to Defendant. (Id. ¶ 12.) A close friend of Mr. Wood, Mr. John Robinson, was bequeathed " [all] the rest, residue and remainder of [the] estate, inclusive of but not limited to . . . art work, whether published or unpublished." (Id. ¶ 13.)

In 2009, Mr. J. David Spurlock, Mr. Wood's biographer, first saw a copy of Mr. Wood's will. (Id. ¶ ¶ 22-23.) Two years later in 2011, Mr. Spurlock established WWP to promote Mr. Wood's legacy and to manage Mr. Wood's tangible properties and intellectual property rights. (Id. ¶ ¶ 19-20.) Mr. Spurlock is the sole member and manager of WWP. (Id. ¶ 21.) On February 23, 2012, Mr. Robinson assigned his interest in " the work, property, copyrights, trademark rights and royalties attributed to or due to the said Wallace Wood and/or his estate" to WWP. (Id. ¶ 16.) As of that date, WWP alleges, it became the owner of all original artwork created by Mr. Wood " during his lifetime that is not subject to a written agreement explicitly providing otherwise and thus owned by Wallace Wood at the time of his death." (Id. ¶ 18.)

Defendant's Possession of the Original Artwork: The 2005 Marvel Transfer

In 2005, Marvel allegedly transferred 150 to 200 pieces of Mr. Wood's original comic book ...


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