Select Page

Property I
Wayne State University Law School
Dolan, John

I. History of property ownership
¾ He who captures (mustang colt); he who has it first
¾ Debts (can be transferable)
· Reification
¾ Tragedy of the Commons
· Marginal utility- benefits and costs to a producer (of one addt’l unit)
· Externalities- cost of production borne by people other than producer
· Distributive justice- determine who has access to what resource
¾ Posner- Economic theory of property rights
· Property rights must be transferable (alienability) and exclusive

II. Conversion

¾ Conversion is the wrongful exercise of ownership rights over personal property of another.
¾ Kremen v. Cohen
· Facts:
§ Kremen originally registered sex.com with Network Solutions; Cohen sent letter to transfer domain name to himself; Network solutions did; Kremen sued Cohen and won but couldn’t get money because he disappears; Kremen sued Network Solutions for conversion of his property
· Issue: Did the transfer of domain name to Cohen constitute an act of conversion by Network Solutions?
· Holding: Yes, a domain name is property using three elements of property:
§ Universal
§ Exclusivity
§ Transferability
· Teaching pts
§ Property can be intangible if it is something of value
§ Court’s ruling can be more than formulastic- realistic, which looks at the impact of the application of a rule.
§ What constitutes property can keep changing
§ Courts can make common law
¾ Moore v. Regents of the University of California, 1990
· Facts:
§ Moore had hairy cell leukemia went to UCLA med center; Staff (Dr.) was aware that blood components were of great value; Moore had blood work done and spleen removed; Dr.s told Moore that he had to continue to come to UCLA for treatment; Staff used Moore’s blood, skin, and marrow samples to create a patent cell line- getting profits from; Moore sued for conversion of his blood and body samples wanting a portion of the financial profit; Conversion is a strict liability
· Issue: Did Moore have a property interest in his cells? Was there an act of conversion?
· Holding: no property interest since Moore could not expect to retain interest in cells after leaving his body. No conversion.
· Reasoning:
§ Policy issue: scientific research is important- benefit to society outweighs infringement on individual rights.
§ Conversion is strict liability, and thus all profit would go to Moore
§ Where does it stop: opening up a can of worms on selling of body parts.
§ Conversion doesn’t fit; may have a lack of consent argument.
· Teaching points:
§ Courts can’t solve all issues
§ Need to be careful in using old rules for new cases
§ Must measure societal needs with individual ones.

III. Exclusion from Property- exclusion cases from rights of private property

¾ Jacques v. Steenburg Homes
· Facts:
§ Moving mobile home, need to cut across Jacques land; Jacques said no, they did it anyway
· Holding: Jacques can exclude Homes co. from private property. Given punitive damages
¾ State v. Shack
· Facts:
§ Tejeras and Shack went to Tedesco’s farm to talk to migrant workers regarding medical help and legal advice; Tedesco said could stay but he demanded to be present when legal advice was discussed; Tejeras and Shack declined and refused to leave; Tedesco called the sheriff and formed a complaint for trespass.
· Issue: Is it within the rights of Tedesco to exclude those who wish to aid the migrant workers? Whose rights trump?
· Holding: There was no trespass. Title of real property does not include dominion of those who are on the property (migrant workers).
· Reasoning:
§ Court did not address Tenant/landlord law where an owner is restricted on his ability to exclude others on tenant’s property
§ If a court can rule on something other than Constitutional issue, it should. Courts try to avoid extending constitutional issues
§ Policy issue: at time, migrant rights were a issue in politics and the law, court wants to fasten their ruling on the rights of the migrant worker.
§ Dicta: charitable groups and the press can go in to see migrant workers
¾ Intel v. Hamidi
· Facts:
§ Hamidi was a former Intel employee; formed an anti-Intel organization; Organization used Intel’s LAN connection to send mass emails to the employees; emails contained negative statements about Intel; Intel claims trespass to chattels.
· Issue:
§ Did Hamidi’s use of Intel’s computer system constitute a trespass to chattels?
· Holding:
§ Court of Appeals is reversed. There is no evidence of trespass to chattels, Hamidi used the email system for its intended purpose (to communicate with employees)
· Reasoning:
§ Hamidi’s interference must have caused some injury to the chattel or to the plaintiff’s rights in it and that owner can only recover actual damages suffered.
§ Only one who intentionally meddles with another’s chattels is subject to liability and then only if the meddleing is harmful to the physical condition or the owner is deprived of the use of chattel for a period of time.
§ The computer system was installed for employees to have access to internet. Intel must have known that employees would use it.
a. Therefore cannot claim loss of employee’s time as production loss
b. Can’t assert a property interest in employees time
§ There was no injury to the property bc of the emails
· Teaching Points:
§ Difference between conversion and trespass to chattels
a. Conversion: is strict liability; property is taken
i. Issues that don’t quite meet the standard of conversion are trespass issues
b. Trespass to chattels: diminishes the use of property; only 1st person directly related is liable; intentional tort

IV. The Right of Disposition

¾ Freedom to and not to alienate from property
¾ Jones v. Alfred Mayer Co.
· Facts:
§ Jones attempted to buy a house and was refused because of his race; Jones filed suit, lost and then appealed; now before Supreme Ct.;
§ Two Civil Rights Acts
a. First one in 1866: 42 USCA §1982
b. Second one in 1968: Civil Rights Act of 1968
i. Can’t use because wasn’t implemented after the original suit was brought forth.
· Issue:
§ Does §1982 encompass the issue of private sale of property?
· Holding:
§ Due to language and context of the statute §1982 does in fact bar all racial discrimination, private and public, in the sale or rental of property.
· Reasoning:
§ Defendants state that §1982 is only applicable to state action and not usable as a claim that involves personal/private property
a. State action is much more limited in their rules than private action
§ Court must look at language, intent, and history of statute §1982
a. Intention of congress- the objective of the statute in reference to the 13th amendment
b. Statutory Construction- section 1 and section 2 of the statute work together to show more than just governmental interference
c. Constitutional- looking at legislative history to decide if congress could bar discrimination in private/public realm
§ The court uses policy issues to state that the statute must be read to apply to private as well as public
· Teaching Points:
§ Constitutional rights trump private property rights
§ Normally, property has an exclusive right that includes the right to alienate
§ However, courts can

rie land; Leases it to Elickson for grass privileges; 1890, meteor falls and buries 3 ft deep in same land; Hoagland (in presence of Elickson) digs up the meteor and sells to Winchell for $105; Goddard (after learning of meteor) took writ of replevin for the meteor against Winchell
· Issue: Did Elickson (as leasing the land) have the right to give to Hoagland who sold to Winchell?
· Holding: Meteor is part of the land and is owned by Goddard.
· Reasoning:
§ This is a finder case; buyers rights are defined by rights of finder
§ Two Rules:
· Anything in the soil becomes part of the real estate
· Blackstone: occupant is entitled to goods that are found
§ Ct. uses rule of land, anything in soil becomes part of
§ Says that this is because the meteor was placed by nature
§ Accretion vs. evulsion
· Accretion: slow movement over time (things moved by water)
· Evulsion: one sporadic event or movement
§ Ct. finds the meteor is like accretion bc.
· Happens over 6000 times a year
· Properties of meteor mimic soil it is buried in upon impact
¾ Eads v. Brazelton, supreme ct. of Ak, 1861
· Facts:
§ There was a wrecked steam boat; Brazelton found steamboat and marked trees around it; 9 months later Eads finds boat and raises cargo before Brazelton can get it
· Issue: Who gets to keep sunken cargo? Were the actions of Brazelton enough for him to be true finder?
· Holding: Eads has possession because actually raised the cargo.
· Reasoning:
§ Must have intent and possession
§ Ct. believes to be abandoned so no true owner; ct. infers abandonment
§ Brazelton had intent but did not do enough to get possession
§ Eads took it so he is finder
¾ Popov v. Hayashi, Superior Ct. CA, 2002
· Facts:
§ Popov in process of catching stray ball at game, is tackled; Hayashi picks up the ball after falls; Popov claims conversion and trespass to chattels
· Issue: Did Popov ever have actual possession?
· Holding: There was no trespass or conversion. Must sell the ball and split money
· Reasoning:
§ Popov had possessory interest but lacked control, so no actual possession
§ Intent but no actual physical possession
§ No intent for conversion
· But both parties have equal rights; equitable division
§ No trespass to chattels bc no damage to property or interference from enjoyment
· Teaching Points:
§ Equity: ct balances interests of both parties in fairness
¾ Armory v. Delamirie, Kings Bench, 1722
· Facts:
§ Chimney sweep (employee) finds jewels; Took to jeweler, who told sweep’s employer (defendant in case); Sweep brought suit for trover (to recover damages)
· Issue:
§ Did the Chimney Sweep gain possession of jewels as finder?
· Holding: In equity, the Sweep gets possession as finder.
· Reasoning:
§ Trover (damages) different from replevin (get property returned)
§ Ct. uses word “property” to refer to title
§ There is a risk of true owner coming back