Select Page

Property I
University of Iowa School of Law
Matsumoto, Barry D.

What is property?

· Possession:

1. Certain amount of actual control over the property

2. An intent to possess the property and exclude others.

Acquisition of Property Rights

Acquisition of Property Rights by Capture

· Title to Wild Animals is initially acquired by taking possession of the wild animal:

1. Mere chasing does not give right to possession against other who captures it by intervening

2. If an animal is mortally wounded or caught in a trap so that its capture is certain, the hunter acquires a right to possession and title which may not be defeated by another’s intervention.

3. Title acquired by possession can be lost if the wild animal escapes and returns to its natural habitat.

Pierson v. Post

– Post (P) was hunting a fox. D knew this and killed the fox and carried it off.

– Barbeyrac Rule (Favored by the Majority) It is not always necessary for physical possession.

o (1)Person must not abandon chase,

o (2)Had intention of capturing the animal,

o (3)Deprived the beast of its natural liberty, and

o (4)Brought the animal within his certain control.


Court held that a person who maliciously interefered with another’s trade or business would be liable to the person interfered with. Applying Keeble, Court asks 3 questions

– Was pig hunting Frank’s trade or business?

– Did the other person interfere with Frank?

– Was the other person’s interference malicious?

Court notes one way in which a defendant can act malicious is if the defendant’s SOLE PURPOSE is to inflict harm on the plaintiff.

Further, in the SPAM case, the court would analyze although SPAM was singling out Frank, they were also trying to protect a conservation interest in the Pig, the court may or may not agree with this point of the view. The court could reject this view and only see the perspecetive of the Park Commision policy of killing pigs, which the court may then find SPAM’s conduct to be malicious in nature.

Ghen v. Rich – Court held that sometimes customs rather than common law will be used to define property rights in wild animals.

– Does the custom hunters practice be enforced instead of common law?

– Is the custom reasonable?

– If it is reasonable, does it bind people who are not part of the hunting community?

– Assuming it does bind people who are not hunters, does the custom define property rights?

Popov v. Hayashi

– Both P and D intended to establish and maintain control over a baseball that Bonds. P got the ball in his glove and a crowd mobbed him, causing it to leave his control. D got the ball and put it in his pocket. P claimed that he had sufficient possession to claim title.

– When an actor undertakes significant but incomplete steps to achieve possession of a piece of abandoned property and the effort is interrupted by the unlawful acts of others, the actor has a legally cognizable pre-possessory interest in the property sufficient to support a claim of conversion (the act of depriving the owner of his property without permission or justification)

Acquisition of Property Rights by Find

· A finder is a person who rightfully acquires possession of the property of another that has been lost, misplaced, abandoned or hidden so as to be classified as treasure trove.

· Lost property

1. Property is lost when the owner unintentionally and involuntarily parts with its possession and does not know where it is

2. Finder acquires title to property against all but the true owner.

· Mislaid Property

1. Mislaid property is voluntarily put in a certain place by the owner who then overlooks or forgets where the property is. Finder acquires no rights to the property.

2. Finder is not entitled to retain the possession of the property as against the owner of the land on which the property was found. Owner of the “locus in quo” is deemed to be the bailee of goods for the true owner.

· Abandoned property

1. Property is abandoned when owner no longer wants it. Abandoned property belong to the finder of property against all others, including the former owner.

2. Finder is generally entitled not only to possession but also to ownership against all others.

· Treasure trove

1. It consists of coins or currency concealed by the owner. It includes an element of antiquity. Property must have been hidden or concealed for such a length of time that the owner is probably dead or undiscoverable. Treasure trove belongs to the find as against all but the true owner. It is usually Gold, Silver, or Money.

2. Treated as lost property and belongs to the finder.

Favorite v. Miller

– D entered Plaintiff’s property and removed a valuable portion of a King George III statute. Defendant claimed entitlement under the abandoned property. P claimed the property was mislaid.

– Finder of property through trespass on the land where found does not have a tit

olic delivery). Can be done by the offeror or trustee of the offeror.

3. Acceptance is required…but generally presumed if the gift is beneficial to the donee.

Gruen v. Gruen

§ Son received a letter from his father indicating the gift of a painting, but that the father wanted to use it for the remainder of his life. Son never took possession of the painting.

§ After father’s death, step mother refused to transfer painting to son.

§ Court held that an inter vivos gift of a chattel may be made where the donor retains a life estate and the donee never has physical possession until after the donee’s death.

An inter vivos gift is an irrevocable transfer of property made to the donee during the donor’s lifetime.

A gift causa mortis is one made in contemplation of the donor’s imminent death. It is revocable by the donor at any time before the donor dies and is automatically revoked if the donor does not die from the anticipated peril.

Albinger v. Harris

§ P gave D a diamond ring. D gave the ring back. Plaintiff and Defendant repeatedly separated and got back together, exchanging the ring each time.

§ Couple was regularly violent toward one another. At the final separation, P told D to take the ring and get out. P later sued for the ring claiming the gift was contingent on the marriage.

§ Montana law bars all actions in contract law that arise from the mutual promise to marry, absent fraud or deceit. Engagement rings cannot be considered a gift subject to an implied condition of marriage.

Foster v. Reiss

§ P appealed a decision in his action to recover property upholding a gift causa mortis to D, contending that the gift was invalid because the decedent failed to complete actual delivery of property to D.

§ In order to sustain a gift causa mortis, actual delivery of the property is still required except in circumstances where there can be no actual delivery or actual delivery is incompatible with the situation.