I. Acquisition of Personal Property
A. Introduction: Problems here are related to tangible chattels.
1. Possession: custody over property, not ownership. If you have possession, you are protected against the entire world except the true owner.
2. Ownership: by obtaining possession, one can acquire ownership. Ultimate of all rights a person can have of property.
1. Wild Animals
a. Ownership obtained by taking into possession and domesticating it.
b. If a wild animal escapes after having been caught, it again becomes the property of no one, unless it has been domesticated (a return factor)
c. Public Policy – court felt it would be easier to determine who caught, not who saw. Competition more fair.
2. Landowners Rule
a. Must have interest of security on land
b. If item is embedded or affixed than the landowner has 1st possession (Goddard), because it belongs to the land
c. Why landowners rule?
1) Protects property
2) creates law & order
3) gives incentive to acquire property
3. Finder Rule
a. Taking possession – not as trespasser
b. Finders rule applies except when embedded & if you are not trespassing
c. No duty to become a finder – contrary to mislaid
d. Why finders rule?
1) Promotes public policy
2) encourages industrialism, and alertness
3) Rewards successful pursuits
4) Without it, anyone could make a claim for unsuccessful pursuit.
4. Abandoned Property
a. How to determine
1) Original owner voluntarily gives up ownership & possession
2) Lack of use for an extended amount of time
3) Intent to surrender all claims
b. How to possess
1) Actual taking with intent to reduce it to possession under the reasonable circumstances.
2) Finder acquires ownership merely by taking such property into possession
c. What is reasonably possible under the circumstances
1) Size of object
2) Markers no, boat covering, yes (Eads)
5. Lost Property – General
a. Rule: Rights against all the world but the true owner.
b. Finder can bring action against one who deprives him of possession (Armory)
1) Boy found jewel in chimney & has rights against all but true owner
c. These rights are not forfeited when you lose item – inconsistent w/ wild animals
d. Finders Duty
1) Reasonable efforts to locate rightful owner
2) Duty to maintain – wear & tear only
3) Not turn it over to wrongful person
6. Lost Property – Public v. Private
a. Items found in public part of private property go to finder if:
1) Landowner is not aware of it – bank notes (Bridges)
2) Not embedded (Goddard)
3) PO has not reduced it to custody
4) Public & open place
5) Not mislaid
ing until true owner returns. He has a duty to retain it and maintain it.
d. Jury decides what is mislaid
1) Condition of item
2) Intent of true owner
3) Where it was placed – Table is different than the floor (McAvoy)
e. Money in a bottle – (Schley v. Couch)
1) Where it is clearly shown that an article of property imbedded in the soil is not lost, the rule is that all such property should go to the owner of the property upon which the article is found.
2) Mislaid property that is buried may become lost if sufficient time has elapsed to indicate that it may never be restored to its true owner.
8. Unauthorized Possession
a. Possession may be deemed by ownership as to third parties (Anderson):
1) The possessor of property has good title against all the world except those having a better title (true owner). Even if a possessor of goods has obtained them wrongfully (theft), he may replevy them from a third party who takes them from him. Enjoy it in jail.
It would promote an incentive to steal if this rule wasn’t in tact. If there wasn’t the rule, it would lead to an endless series of unlawful