Select Page

Property I
University of California, Hastings School of Law
Schwartz, Lois W.

I. Acquisition by Discovery
A. First in time doctrine: being there first justifies ownership
1 First possessor has better title than any subsequent possessor.
B. Labor Theory (Locke): right established by adding labor
1. Law of Accession: One person adds to the property of another with labor alone.
2. Title by Conquest: acquired and maintained by force; natives incorporated with victorious nation and become subjects/citizens.
a. Conquest: taking possession of enemy territory by force and formal annexation of defeated territory by conquer.
Johnson v. McIntosh: discovery of America justified because Indians weren’t owning the land because they were nomadic.

II. Water and Natural Resources
A. Fugitive Resources: belong to the owner of the land and are his as long as they’re on his land or subject to his control.
1. You can drill downward and drain resources from a pool underlying the land of several owners, but lateral drilling is trespass.
a. When they escape they become common property
B. Water:
1. Western states: surface water and some groundwater subject to first in time rule; whoever captures water and puts it to reasonable and beneficial use first has superior rights.
2. Easter States: Riparian Rights: owner of riparian land (along water) has right to use water in a reasonable way.

II. Property Rights in Wild Animals.
A. Capture Rule: first person to kill or mortally wound an animal acquired property rights.
1. Pierson v. Post
B. Release/Escape: if a wild animal is caught but released or escapes, owner relinquishes rights; another person can acquire ownership rights to the escaped animal.
1. If the animal is domesticated so that it has a habit of leaving and returning, then you can’t acquire ownership rights by capturing it while it is away from the owner’s home.
a. ASPCA v. Conti- parrot reclaimed because it had the habit of leaving and returning
C. Rights of Landowners: landowner has no rights to wild animals on her land, but they have the exclusive opportunity to capture wild animals on their land because of their right to exclude others.
1. Raitione soli: owner of land has sufficient possession of the wild animals on the land to start a hunt for them and the right to pursue them while on the land.
a. English law: landowner is in constructive possession of wild animals on her land.
2. Keeble v. Hickeringill
3. If a trespasser kills a wild animal, ownership is usually awarded to the owner of the land where the capture took place.
D. Custom: A custom giving rise to access must be long-continued, uninterrupted, and reasonable asserted as a right. The custom must have been exercised from the beginning of the state’s existence within the union and uninterrupted thereafter.
1. Ghen v. Rich: branding a whale sufficient ‘constructive possession’ based on local industry custom.

I. Finders of Personal Property
A. Categories of ‘Found’ Property
1. Lost: owner unintentionally and involuntarily parts with it and doesn’t know where it is.
a. Finder has greater property rights than anyone in the world except true owner.
i. If true owner found, must give it back
ii. Finder can demand a subsequent finder/thief to return property in court.
b. Armory v. Delamirie: chimney

itle and possession
a. That is the difference between a gift and a bailment/loan
b. Gruen v. Gruen: P said that his father, who died, left him a painting, but that the dad wanted to hold onto it until he died. His stepmom disagreed because she said the formalities of a will weren’t met, and that a valid inter vivos gift of a chattel and retain life estate with complete right of possession. P had gotten a letter from his dad saying that he intended to give him the gift but that he was holding onto the painting until he died. The main issue was whether there can be a valid inter vivos gift if the donee never has physical possession of it. The letters showed donative intent, and what counts as sufficient delivery must be tailored to fit the case. Court ruled for P.

B. Delivery:
1. Actual/manual delivery
2. Constructive delivery: Giving something that gives access to the property, such as keys to a car
a. CA always allows constructive delivery
3. Symbolic Delivery: something that stands in place of property, such as a deed.
a. Some jx limit this to when manual delivery is difficult/impossible
b. R2: document is valid even for things that can be easily handed over.
C. Acceptance: courts presume acceptance of a gift that is
unconditional and valuable unless donee actively rejects gift