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Property I
University of Illinois School of Law
Reynolds, Laurie Jo


Professor Reynolds

Fall 2015

What is Property?

§ Modern View – Property rights arise from the government.

· A bundle of rights

1. Right to possess-TO has right to possess and control his property

§ Moore v. Regents – Doctors used patients cells to make cell line for lucrative research without patient being aware. No ground for conversion – limited property rights for donor, can’t establish interference.

· Conversion-interference with another’s property and taking of control of property, converting it, and making it your own.

§ Edwards v. Sims- Court ruled that portion of cave that ran under defendants propery was part of defendants property, despite no access.

· Rule: TO owns everything above and below property.

2. Right to exclude – TO has right to exclude from property.

§ Absolute ownership does not bar entry deemed necessary and rights to aid cannot be contracted away

· State v. Shack – Court ruled that TO did not have right to exclude gov’t officials from supplying necessary aid to workers on land

· Rule: Man should not use his property to injure others.

§ one cannot exclude based on race, color, religion or use the courts to uphold discrimination

· Jones v. Alfred Mayer – DEF refused to sell home for sole reason of race. Court rules 14th covers private transactions.

· Shelley v Kramer- area had white only contract, tried to use courts to enforce it.

o Rule: Court action is state action.

3. Right to transfer – TO has right to transfer title.

§ Johnson v. Mcintosh – One set of property owners purchased title of land from Indian tribes, another from the US government. Which title wins? Held that Indians never had true title, only right to occupy.

· Rule: Those that do not have true title cannot transfer title.

· Principal of discovery-those that conquer land have superior title to land


§ Important Factors to Consider:

o Relationship Between parties

o Nature of object found

o Mental state of TO

o Expectation of land owner

o Legal possession v. Manuel possession

o Wrong doing involved?

§ Definitions

o Lost property – property that was unintentionally lost or unknowingly dropped

o Mislaid property – items that were intentionally place and forgotten about

o Abandoned property – items that were left behind with no intention of being re-claimed

§ Amory v Delamirie – Chimney sweep finds jewels, gets them appraised, jewler does not return jewels.

o Rule: Finder has superior rights to all but the true owner.

§ Serves interest of TO – does not incentivize hiding finding

§ Goddard v. Winchell – Man found meteor on PL’s land and sold to DEF, witnessed by PL’s tenant.

o Rule: Objects that are immovable from the property will belong to the owner of the property, even if he is unaware of the item.

§ Moveable Objects: Usually go to finder

§ Immoveable Objects: (Came to being through natural process, or fixed to land) – Usually go to property owner.

· No True owner – Unusual – No absolute Claim

· Court Concerned with nature of object – Fixed to soil

· What was finder doing on land? Courts tend to not favor trespass.

· Gradual, natural additions to land will be accepted (accretion), however, sudden changes due to floods or other disasters (avulsion) will not.

§ Eads v. Brazelton – X found shipwreck, marked it with intent to come back, Y came back first and took actual possession of the property, court ruled X did not take actual possession of property and not in the process of taking property.

o Rule: Finder must actually possess property, or have intent and means to reduce it to possession to have rightful claim.

o What is legal possession?

§ Actual possession is not required, however must be in process of actively acquiring possession.

§ Desire to obtain – not possession.

§ Popov v. Hayashi – PL caught homerun ball, lost ball when engulfed in mob. DEF ended up with ball.

o Grays Rule: Must achieve complete control when momentum of ball and fan have stopped. If incidental contact dislodges ball before momentum is stopped, no possession.

§ Applies to baseballs only

o Mob prevented PL from obtaining ball, unlawful intervening actions caused court to produce result that rule did not imply.

o Pre-possessory interest: Part of a cause of action for conversion. Where an actor undertakes significant but incomplete steps to achieve possession of a piece of abandoned prop and the effort is interrupted by unlawful acts.

o Equitable Division: Where more than one party has a valid claim to a single piece of property.

§ Bridges v. Hawkesworth – PL found $ in DEF shop. Left $ with DEF for TO to claim for 3 years. After no

lationship, prevents series of trespassers from tacking.

§ Tacking – Adding up time of current and previous possessors to reach time requirement.

· Each previous owner thought deed was for land house was on.

· Must be voluntary transfer

§ Color of title-possession of property under a written claim that was in defect, possessor does not need to be in adverse possession to claim property

§ Strict application of rule would not promote intent of rule, so rule was altered.

Bona Fide Purchaser

· Always involves TO, intermmeidiate, and end purchaser.

· Used as defense when someone sues to recover item purchased from intermediate.

· Involves 2 innoccent parties. Who loses?

· Does not apply in case of theft, but does in case of fraud.

· Porter v Wertz – PL lent third party painting to display in gallery, third party sold painting to DEF.

o Rule: No one can convey a better title than he has.

o Equitable estoppel (common law) – TO can’t recover from BFP if he has envested another with usual evidence of title.

o Statutory estoppel (statutory law) – TO can’t recover if property given to someone who normally sells such items and merchant sells to good faith third party.

· Sheridan Sazuki v Caruso – PL sold motorcycle to X. X sold to DEF. Check to PL bounces. X never perfected title.

o Rule: Courts have obligation to avoid interpretations that result in conflict between statutes, courts will usually give greater effect to more specific statute.

o Rule: Process of obtaining title is not complete until department is satisfied that title was in alleged owner.

§ This is a rule from this particular jurisdiction.

o BFP would normally apply. Purchase with a bad check leads to a voidable title, not a bad one, so X could transfer good title to DEF. However, second rule implies that X never had a title to transfer, so TO wins.