Property 2012 Vermont Law School
I Theories of Property Ownership: “Property is a human invention, without law property ceases to exist”, however a clearer definition is a person’s right concerning things (bundle of sticks).
A. First Possession: Whoever takes first possession is the owner.
As simple as a theater seat, first come first serve!
B. Through labor: When you mix your own labor with a natural resource-John Locke
A person picks nuts from a tree and put them in a bag and takes them home. Further, Locke said that he interpreted the Bible as saying that god gave all mankind property, all that had to do was be seized and to make it his own add labor. Through the work of taking the nuts home, the person had acquired property rights for the nuts.
C. Maximize Societal Happiness: What is best for the greater good of the society
If C is protected by property rights, then he can used the tree for the greater good of
society. He can harvest the nuts, or even use the wood for lumber to build homes for
other members of the society.
D. Ensure Democracy: Only landowners were allowed to vote
If C owned the tree (property), then he would be able to vote for the greater common
common good. This would also be considered Civil Republican Theory.
E. Facilitate Personal Development: Property is necessary for personal development.
People have a personal connection to personal things. Photos, cards, love letters, etc.
This is like if C’s family owned the nut tree, grew up under the nut tree, under the personhood theory C should own the nut tree.
Example of First Possession:
Pierson v. Post: Pierson was in pursuit of a fox, when Post shot, killed and captured the fox, knowing that Pierson was in pursuit. Pierson sued saying that he had property rights when he began hunting the fox. Further, he contended that Post did not have control over the fox, therefore he had no property rights. Rule: Pursuit is not enough, you must be the first to kill and capture. Theory of first possession (Pg 8)
In order to gain property rights over the fox you need to:
Unequivocal intent to appropriate the animal
Deprive the Animal of Natural liberty-Life
Bring animal within certain control
II What Property?
A. Real Property
B. Personal Property
C. Intellectual Property: Likeness: Is a work or invention of an individual, that is a result of their own creativity
White v. Samsung Electronics: Company used Vanna White’s likeness to promote a VCR for their company, the ad displayed a robot that consciously presented to resemble the plaintiff, next to a gameboard that was recognizable as Wheel of Fortune. The Δ referred to the ad as the V.W. ad. Since White did not consent to the ad, nor was she compensated. White sued and won, the Court found the ad displayed her likeness within the meaning of the Cal. Code. At common law, the right of publicity is using (1) the person’s identity (2) name of likeness to the advantage of the Δ (3) lack of consent and (4) resulting in the injury. If the celebrity’s identity is exploited without authorization, then there is an invasion of this right. (Pg20).
III Real Property: Property is the right among people concerning things, these rights are often referred to as a bundle of sticks, the most important of these rights are: Right to transfer, exclude, use, and destroy.
A. Right to transfer: When can a person transfer.
Johnson v. McIntosh: Johnson inherited a tract of land from his father, who bought the land from Indians. McIntosh was later granted title from the U.S. Gov’t, Johnson filed for ejectment. Issue: Who owns the land? Rule: Since the Indians do not have title to the land, they merely possess it, they may not transfer the land. A person must have title to convey, therefore the land would go to McIntosh. Indians only had the right of occupancy. More of a Lockien theory, since settlers improved the land and used it for the greater common good then they should have property rights, leaving Native Americans Occupancy rights.
Moore v. Regents of University of California: Plaintiff had blood cells removed during the course of treatment, his doctor used the blood cells to create a valuable cell-line and the plaintiff was seeking damages. The issue is whether a person owns the rights to bodily organs once removed from the body. The Court held no, once the bodily things leave the human there are no longer property interests. Note: The only way this is possible is if the material removed is replenishable, you may not sell kidney’s on the black market.
B. Right to Exclude: Owners may exclude non-owners from their property, unless they use their land in a way to injure others, and is limited by the amount of public access they allow.
Jacque v. Steenberg Homes Inc.: Plaintiff’s had adamantly asked that a company not deliver a mobile home across their land because of previous adverse possession issues. The company, delivered the home anyways across their land. The plaintiff’s filed suit to recover damages, punitive and nominal damages. The Δ gloated about the trespass and only faced a $30 civil fine, additionally he saved money by moving the home. Important to note, they could have moved the home by other means, but chose to intentionally use the Jacque’s land without permission. This case established an exception to the Bernard Rule, which would not allow punitive damages for trespass. This was essentially a deterrence mechanism, because the fine was so low and the Jacques were so adamant to protect their property, the Court reasoned this would be appropriate because society has an interest in protect their property.
Trespass on Private Property: Going on property after it is made clear through a sign or a fence that a person is not allowed. Exceptions to trespass: (1) it is permitted (2) entry is required to prevent more serious harm to people or property (3) Entry is encourage by public policy.
State v. Shack: Δ (attorney for legal advice & health services) entered private land in order to aid migrant farm workers and were charged with trespass. The issue is whether these men were trespassing on private property because they were trying to help the workers, who may not otherwise have access to their services. The Court determined since the owner allowed the workers on his property, the officials had a right to check on their well-being. The well-being is a paramount concern and that is what the Δ’s were trying to accomplish by coming onto the property. Rule: Trespass is not appropriate when officials are trying to help others who are allowed on the property with services they may require. Since they were employees and allowed on premise, the owner can not deny them the basic rights afforded.
C. Right to Use: Is the right of allowing and owner to use his property in anyway he/she see’s fit.
Sundowner v. King: Δ built a fence th
n the owner concealed the property in a hidden location a long time ago and is usually limited to gold, silver, or currency.
Armory v. Delamirie: Plaintiff found a jewel and did not know the value of the stone. He brought the jewel to the goldsmith’s shop and handed it over to be appraised. The owner offered the boy money and the boy refused. The owner refused to give the jewel back, once he realized that the boy was not the true owner. The Court found that he jewel should be returned to the boy because he had found the jewel and that he would have property interest against anyone but the true owner. Rule: A person who finds an object has ownership rights against anyone, except the true owner.
Hannah v. Peel: Δ owned a home but never occupied the home, instead the house was requisitioned to house soldiers. During that time the plaintiff a soldier, found a brooch and turned it into the police station and got a receipt. After the statute of limitations time ran out, without the true owner coming forward. The police returned the brooch to the Δ, who sold the brooch. The plaintiff is seeking damages, since he is the one who found the object. The Δ is contended he owned even though he never resided there, where the object was found and therefore he should be able to sell the brooch and keep proceeds. The Court found that since the house was not occupied by the owner at the time, that the plaintiff find was his against all parties but the rightful owner. Rule: Since the plaintiff did not trespass, and the Δ had opportunity to get the brooch if it was really his, then the plaintiff was the true owner. Important to note, if the Δ resided at the house, it could have changed.
McAvoy v. Medina: The plaintiff was a customer at the Δ’s barber shop and found a pocket-book on the counter, he left it with the Δ to find the rightful owner. The rightful owner was never found and the plaintiff demanded the return of the purse. The Court found that the plaintiff could not recover the purse because it would be natural for a person who lost an item to seek recovery from the shop where they lost it and not from a stranger who found it. Rule: When a customer leaves a pocket-book on the counter of shop, the item is not subject to historical rules of lost property.
Haslem v. Lockwood: The plaintiff employed two men to gather heaps of manure on the side of a highway, they did so which took a few hours. Accompanied by the manure was some gravel and other debris that would naturally come with the manure on the side of a road. The Δ called the Warden after seeing the piles to acquire the material, to which he stated that he had given no other permissions to acquire the manure. The plaintiff sued and the Court held that since the plaintiff increased the value of the manure through labor, therefore he should recover damages.