Case No.: GIN029095
COMPLAINT TO QUIET TITLE TO PERSONAL PROPERTY [CCP § 760.020]
STEPHEN A. MORELY, an individual,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; BUZZ ALDRIN; "ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY LEGAL OR EQUITABLE RIGHT, TITLE, ESTATE, LIEN, OR INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY DESCRIBED IN THE COMPLAINT ADVERSE TO PLAINTIFF'S TITLE, OR CLAIMING ANY CLOUD ON PLAINTIFF'S TITLE THERETO"; and DOES 1 through 20, Inclusive,
Comes now Plaintiff STEPHEN A. MORELY who alleges a cause of action against defendants as follows:
1. Plaintiff STEPHEN A. MORELY is an individual who at all relevant times was and is a resident of the County of San Diego, City of Carlsbad.
2. The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (on behalf of the NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION, hereafter referred to as "NASA"), is individually joined as a party to this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2410.
3. At all times relevant herein defendant BUZZ ALDRIN was and is a resident of the County of Los Angeles, State of California.
4. The defendants herein named as "all persons unknown claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to plaintiff's title, or claiming any cloud on plaintiff's title thereto" are unknown to plaintiff. These defendants, and each of them, claim some right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described below adverse to the plaintiff's title. These claims, and each of them, constitute a cloud on plaintiff's title thereto. These claims, and each of them, are without any right whatever, and these defendants, and each of them, have no right, title, estate, lien, or interest whatever in the property described below or any part of that property.
5. Defendants Doe 1 through Doe 20, inclusive, are sued herein under fictitious names. Their true names and capacities are unknown to plaintiff. When their true names and capacities are ascertained, plaintiff will amend this complaint by inserting their true names and capacities herein. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that each of the fictitiously named defendants is responsible in some manner for the occurrences herein alleged, and that plaintiff's damages are herein alleged were proximately caused by those defendants. Each reference in this complaint to "defendant," "defendants," or a specifically named defendant refers also to all defendants sued under fictitious names.
6. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that at all times herein mentioned each of the defendants, including all defendants sued under fictitious names, was tho agent and employee of each of the remaining defendants, and in doing the things hereinafter alleged, was acting within the course and scope of this agency and employment.
7. The personal property which is the subject matter of this action is one each Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph Wrist Watch having the movement number 26'549'951, caliber 321 manufactured on November 29, 1968, with reference number ST 145.012, and it is further believed that subject watch is serial number 043, also known as "the Moon Watch".
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
DEFENDANT BUZZ ALDRIN AND "ALL PERSONS UNKNOWN CLAIMING ANY LEGAL OR EQUITABLE RIGHT, TITLE, ESTATE, LIEN, OR INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY DESCRIBED IN THE COMPLAINT ADVERSE TO PLAINTIFF'S TITLE, OR CLAIMING ANY CLOUD ON PLAINTIFF'S TITLE THERETO"; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 20 INCLUSIVE
8. Plaintiff STEPHEN A. MORELY realleges paragraphs 1 through 7 as though fully set forth below.
9. Plaintiff is the sole owner of all right title and interest in and to the watch described in paragraph 7 above. The subject watch is currently in the possession of the plaintiff and no defendant has made an official claim to ownership of the watch despite the fact that the plaintiff and the watch were featured on a local television news program. However, plaintiff is unable to sell or otherwise deal with the watch due to possible adverse claim of defendant UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the possible adverse claim of defendant BUZZ ALDRIN. Each of these possible claims constitutes a cloud on plaintiff's title to the watch.
10. The possible claims of defendant UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and BUZZ ALDRIN are uncertain due to the conflicting evidence in the historical record of subject watch. The uncertainly arises out of the apparent fact that NASA's policies and procedures for the ultimate disposition of Astronaut watches worn in space was unsettled at the time the subject watch was lost. Certain historical documents authored by NASA Deputy Administrators acknowledge that prior tradition provided that military pilots retained wrist watches after retirement. Additional evidence suggests that NASA intended to allow Astronauts to retain possession of the watches worn in space for the duration of the Astronaut's lifetime. Yet other historical documents establish that Astronaut watches were recalled from the Astronauts and then delivered to the Smithsonian Museum. In fact, many of the Astronaut watches were delivered to the Smithsonian Museum where they presumably exist today as artifacts of the museum. However, on at least one occasion, the family of a deceased Astronaut was permitted to retain possession and title to an Astronaut watch. And so it is unclear as to whether the individual Astronauts were entitled to a possessory interest during their lifetime, or to retain possession of and title to the Astronaut watches.
11. One fact that is relatively certain from the historical record is that subject watch, serial number 43, issued to Astronaut BUZZ ALDRIN prior to July 1969 was worn by him on the moon. Although Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, he was not wearing his Astronaut watch, serial number 46, when he did so. Thus, it is widely believed that defendant Astronaut BUZZ ALDRIN, who was wearing his Astronaut watch, possessed the first watch worn on the moon. Plaintiff is informed and thereon believes that the watch which is the subject of this action is the same watch worn by defendant Astronaut BUZZ ALDRIN when stepped onto the surface of the moon.
12. According to defendant ALDRIN, sometime during the year 1971, defendant decided to give his Astronaut watch, along with a number of other personal effects, to the Smithsonian. According to defendant ALDRIN, the Smithsonian readily accepted the gift and arranged for a private contractor to inventory and ship the collection of items, including the subject watch to the Smithsonian. When the packages arrived at the Smithsonian, the watch, along with several medals were missing. The ALDRIN watch was thereafter reported as lost, and efforts to recover the watch were ultimately abandoned. To this day, the whereabouts of serial number 43 has been unknown by the defendants, and other interested persons.
13. On or about the Fall 1991, plaintiff acquired the subject watch by means of purchase from an individual who had advertised the watch for sale in the Recycler newspaper. Although plaintiff cannot recall the name or identity of that individual, plaintiff does recall that he paid the sum of $175.00 for the watch without notice of its artifact value. As such, the basis for plaintiff's title is that he is a bona fide purchaser for value without notice. After plaintiff purchased the watch, he became aware of the apparent fact that his watch might in fact, be that same watch worn by defendant ALDRIN when he stepped on the moon.
14. If the authenticity of the subject watch is confirmed, the value of the watch would be significantly more than $175.00, but plaintiff has no way to know the true value without offering the watch for sale.
16. Plaintiff seeks to quiet title his title in and to the watch described in paragraph 7, against the potential claims of defendant UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and defendant BUZZ ALDRIN, and to any contingent claim of "unknown persons" who might claim any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays judgement against defendants as follows:
For a judgement that plaintiff is the sole owner of right, title, and interest in the watch described herein, and that defendants have no interest in the watch adverse to plaintiff's;
For costs of suit;
For such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.
Dated April 11, 2003
VAN DYKE & ASSOCIATES, APLC