Eversheds' WWII drama

Eversheds has brought the 50-year mystery of a Dutch masterpiece looted from Germany at the end of the Second World War to an end.

The case – which set precedents on the statute of limitations for the recovery of stolen art – finished with the payout of u1m costs to the German government and the city of Gotha.

Eversheds, acting for the German government, secured full recovery of costs in the High Court after the judge assessed the amount on a summary basis.

The early 17th-century Dutch painting, entitled The Holy Family with Saints and Angels by Joachim Wtewael, was discovered when Sotheby's attempted to auction it in 1992.

Dr Michael Carl, head of Eversheds' German department in its London office, suspected the painting had originally been stolen and the long legal process of its recovery began.

He says of the High Court's speedy award of costs: “The judge had considered the arguments and came to his conclusion under the existing rules.”

The court had ruled that the painting be returned to the German government. Since that time it was ruled that both Cobert Finance and its representative Douglas Montgomery, who bought the painting in 1989, were liable to pay costs.

However, since absolutely no communication had been made by either party, Mr Justice Moses ordered the liable party to make a gross sum costs order to the claimants.

Ordinarily claimants would have to undergo a long process to assess the costs, which would have landed the German government with a bill approaching u125,000.

The summary assessment decision was made under Rules of the Supreme Court five days before the new Civil Procedure Rules were implemented under the Woolf Reforms.