I. Law of Finders and the Consequences of Possession
a. Landowners Rule: Item always belongs to the landowner if it is (a) embedded, (b) buried, or (c) affixed. Goddard v. Winchell (aerolite embedded in soil, p. 85); expanded to include nonnatural items in Schley v. Couch (glass jar w/ money buried in garage, 103)
i. Accretion – the gradual changing of a person’s land boundaries based on the washing away of land – owners cannot reclaim
ii. Avulsion – opposite of accretion – takes place very quickly, sudden shift does not change boundaries
iii. Exception: If a finder is a trespasser and the item is not embedded, buried, or affixed, the Landowners Rule still applies
iv. Public Policy Support – promote the privacy and security that comes with land ownership. The landowners rule also rewards the one who owns the land.
b. Finders Rule: The finder of lost objects obtains right to the object against all but the true owner. The item must not be embedded and the finder can’t be a trespasser for the finder’s rule to apply. Armory v. Delamirie (chimney sweep found jewel, 95)
1. To recover, there must be knowledge of the item, evidence of intent to exercise control and do the best you can under the circumstances in order to take possession; the bigger the object, the less required to take possession. Eads v. Brazleton (sunken steamboat recovery, 91)
2. Wild animals must have been captured or mortally wounded in its natural habitat to take possession. Pierson v. Post (fox hunt)
3. Domesticated animals belong to the original owner b/c they have a propensity to return (“honey bee exception”).
4. Oil and gas the courts are split. Treated as wild animals and treated as domesticated animals. Kansas treats oil and gas as wild animals.
5. Possession counts for a lot, it gives finder rights over everyone except the true owner
ii. Finders Duties
1. Reasonable efforts to find true owner
2. Duty to report it to the authorities
3. Duty to maintain property, preserve
4. HOWEVER, no original duty to become a finder.
iii. Status of the finder:
1. Trespasser – landowner prevails regardless.
2. Employee – employee prevails unless the object is embedded even if the employer is the landowner. South Staffordshire v. Sharman (rings in bottom of pool, 97)
i. Lost – owner involuntarily parted with the item through neglect, carelessness.
1. Item goes to the finder. Bridges
ii. Mislaid – owner intentionally sets where he can find it again, but forgets it.
1. The item goes to the landowner because that is where the true finder would go back to retrieve it. McAvoy v. Medina (wallet on table in barber shop, 102)
2. There is a duty upon the landowner to maintain the item and restore it back to the true owner.
iii. Abandoned – Definition depends on the circumstances.
1. Goes to finder.
2. To be abandoned, owner must have intent to give up possession and there must be a lack of use for an extended period of time
3. exception: if item is abandoned but embedded, it goes to the landowner
4. No duty to become a finder of lost property, but duty to safely keep mislaid property (involuntary bailment)
Escheat – no will and no heirs and therefore land escheats to the government