My mother in law bought me a bunch of furniture from different garage sales and I found a piece of expensive art in one of them. Can I resell it? Is it mine to sell? Could I get into legal trouble by selling it?
Yes, it's yours. Yes, you may sell it. Your mom in law may be cranky. Or not.
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This is not an easy question therefore there is not a simple answer. Here's my analysis: In essence, your mother-in-law entered into a contract to purchase certain furniture. Very likely the agreement entered into (whether written or oral) had to do with certain furniture. The seller could claim that it did not include the painting and the painting was mistakenly included. Under general case law, contracts can be reformed meaning they can be adjusted to avoid unfairness caused by mistakes. Given the situation you described, I would recommend you consult with an experienced attorney who will look into both your State's statutes and case law and guide you accordingly.
Yes, you can legally sell it, assuming the artwork belongs to you and was given to you by your mother in law.
Sell it and rejoice at your windfall
I disclaim everything and make no represention of the applicability or accuracy of anything I said here. You are not my client; i am not your attorney. I thought about making this disclaimer as a poem and quickly decided not to do so. Robert Frost can sleep easy.
I disagree with my colleagues.
Your mother-in-law's intent in buying you furniture was to help you set up a household -- not to convey you an expensive painting. If you did not pay for the furniture then she gave it to you as a "gift." Normally a gift is irrevocable. A gift can be rescinded, however, if it was induced by a mistake about a "basic fact." Earl v. Saks & Co. (1951) 36 Cal.2d 602, 609; Reid v. Landon (1958) 166 Cal.App.2d 476, 483.
I think your mother-in-law has a good argument that she has the right to take the painting back from you. If she chooses not to then, well, you can very likely sell it. But you need to tell her about it first. Good luck.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
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