Property Rights (Rights of Possession)
Reducing an object to possession
What must be taken into account when determining if an object has been reduced to possession?
1. The nature of the object (big, small, moveable, attached)
2. The location of the object (land owners property, in city, in jungle, public, private)
3. Abandonment (wild animals have not been abandoned)
4. Control must be maintained to keep possession
Rights of Possession:
1. Finder has rights to the item against all except original owner
2. May not have rights against the land owner (item was affixed, finder was a trespasser, chambermaid exception)
3. Prior Finders (first finder get all rights as true owner)
Public Policy for the rights of finders and rights of Possession:
1. Prevents further down the line takings
2. Maintains the usefulness of the item
3. Rewards alertness and industrialism
4. Fairly clear rule that is easy for the courts to decide
Duties of the Finders:
1. Take reasonable efforts to find the owner
2. Duty to maintain the object, to keep it, take care of it and give it back when true owner is found
Why become a finder, when there is no duty to become a finder.
1. Possibility of reward
2. After a specified time the item becomes the property of the finder (adverse possession)
3. Possibility of abandonment
4. Finder has right to use and possess the item against all the world except the true owner.
Finders may loose rights to:
1. True owner
2. Land owner
a. If the item is buried or embedded
b. If item is mislaid
c. Item is on private premises
d. Finder is a trespasser
3. Prior Finder
Acquisition Defined: the finder must do more than just find property… they must take it into possession or be in the process of taking it into possession.
A finder must have:
1. Physical control of the item AND
2. an intent to assume dominion over the item
Voluntary Transfer – this is from the original owner’s point of view
Involuntary Acquisition – the act of gaining possession or control without the original owner’s consent
**** Acquisition of Property
Finders rule v. Land owners rule
Goddard v. Winchell (Attached Items)
Supreme Court of Iowa, 1892. 86 Iowa 71, 52 N.W. 1124
Overview: Areolite lodges into Plaintiff’s land, Defendant buys arolite from a third party who dug up the item without land owner permission. Court judges
He marks the site but is then unable to return for a long time to actually take possession. During this time the defendant also finds the wreck and begins to take the contents. Plaintiff sues for the what defendant already brought up and to leave the wreck.
Facts: Eads searches for the wrecked boat America and finds it, marks location on trees and with a buoy. Brazelton independently finds America and places his boat over it and begins removing the contents of the wrecked boat.
Issue: Whether the finder of an item has any rights to the item when all he has done is set up markers such that he can return and find the item again to then take possession of it.
Holding: Rights of occupancy exist if a person is in the process of taking the item or already has the item in hand. Reduce to Possession
Who is the first to take possession?
Finder’s Rule here applies to the defendant because they reduced the item to possession and were in the process of taking possession.