BASIC INTRODUCTORY PRINCIPLES
State v. Shack: Ownership in property includes the right to exclude others from the property; but the right is not absolute. A farmer, who hired immigrant workers to work and live on the farm, could not exclude doctors and attorneys from visiting the workers. The court required reasonable access for public services to reach the workers.
Edwards v. Sims: Unless there has been a division of the estate, the owner of realty is entitled to the free and unfettered control of his own land above, upon and beneath the surface. Therefore, the trial court did not err in allowing a survey of a cave, to which the entrance was located on the defendant’s property, but it was supposed that the cave ran underneath the plaintiff’s property. Though, to allow the surveyor to enter the plaintiff’s property undermines the right to exclude. The law of mineral rights applies to caves if:
1. The plaintiff sues (for access to survey) in good faith;
2. There is evidence suggesting trespass; and
3. Defendant has opportunity to be heard before trespass.
Moor v. Regents: Theory for tort of conversion did not avail where leukemia patient claimed that he had a property interest in his cells that doctors used to create a profitable medical patent. State statute prohibited patients from retaining their remaining tissue after surgery.
Johnson v. McIntosh: Plaintiff tried to enforce a grant made to his family in 1773 by Native Americans, but the defendant’s title originated from US grants.
or the aboriginal titleholder to bring an action against anyone other than the US government who tries to eject or trespass.
Shelley v. Kramer: The equal protection and due process clauses prohibit state courts from enforcing racially restrictive covenants, because the court is a state actor. The Missou Supreme Court simply applied state contract law to find that the racial covenant was an invalid contract. SCOTUS could not sidestep the constitutional issue, because it has no jurisdiction to interpret state law.
Goddard v. Winchell: A meteorite that falls to the earth and imbeds in the soil is not a movable object to which a person may claim title by occupancy.
1. The Finder’s rule: the finder of a lost article is the owner against all but the true owner, even if it is found on the property of another.
2. Meteorites deposited by falling from the sky are natural deposits, so they are not like “unclaimed things” that are abandoned.
Eads v. Brazelton: To acquire title by occupancy, a person must both intend to exert exclusive control over it and actually do so. The degree of control “possession” requires as much control as the nature of the goods and the context. Marking the spot of the shipwreck with a buoy did not prove intent to possess, though manual possession is not necessary.