I. THE LAW OF FINDERS AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF POSSESSION
a. General Rules
i. An owner of property does not lose title by losing the property.
ii. The owner’s rights persist even though the article has been lost or mislaid.
iii. As a general rule, however, a finder has superior rights to everyone in the world except the true owner; but there are important exceptions.
iv. Benefits to finding: adverse possession, reward possibilities, right to possess until true owner comes along.
v. You are not required to pick up property in a public place – no duty to become a finder.
b. Goddard v. Winchell – Meteorite embedded in the soil. P is landowner, D is third party who purchased meteorite from finder. From this case we have the embeddedness rule.
i. Embeddedness makes it belong to the landowner. Embedded, buried, or fixed.
ii. Policy reasons for favoring finders would be to encourage alertness, exploration, the putting of a fragment to good use, diligence, industriousness, etc…
iii. Policy reasons for favoring landowners would be security, confidence in ownership, ect…
iv. When things are moved by natural forces, and they are natural in nature, they can change hands. Slow moving, gradual – accretion. When it is fast moving and extreme like a fast flood, the boundaries stay the same.
v. If it’s a matter of trespass the landowner always wins, if it is an innocent person than they have finders rights.
c. South Staffordshire v. Sharman – The property is two rings found in some mud at the bottom of a swimming pool. These items are probably lost. P are the landowners, D are the people who are employed to clean the pool. In the end the court finds that the rings should go to the landowner in a reversal of the trial court.
i. Essentially this is the Goddard rule
ii. This case adds to the Goddard case because it expands the rule to apply to non-natural items.
iii. Employee rule – if its part of the employees job description to report lost items then it goes to the landowner, if not then it will go to the finder.
iv. There was no duty to report the items, but the landowner still got them based on the embeddedness rul
he exception of the true owner. The jeweler was obviously not the true owner.
iii. If the facts are changed and the sweep stole the item it means nothing because possession matters. You have rights against everyone except the true owner. Even wrongful possession gives you rights except everyone but the true owners.
Possession gives you rights except three parties:
– always the true owner
– in some instances the landowner; embedded rule, or if the person is a trespasser
– if finder 1 loses item, and finder 2 finds the item, finder 1 retains. The rights are not forfeited if that item is lost and not abandoned.
Reasons for this rule: It is a clear set of rules and makes it easier for the court. Encourages industrious, alertness, etc… The rule prevents further, down the line takings by other people. The law discourages people from taking from the first finder.
There are two duties that the finder must complete:
– A duty to maintain the item, to keep it or return it only to the true owner. Otherwise it is misdelivery.
There is a duty to identify and locate and true owner. Its only a reasonable duty, to make reasonable effort.