Select Page

Property I
West Virginia University School of Law
Cavalieri, Shelley

       I.            PROPERTY:
a.      Socially contingent: varies across cultures and within cultures.
b.      Theories:
i.      Labor theory:
1.      John Locke → mixing your labor with something unowned (e.g., catching a wild fish), you won the resulting mixture of labor and object.
2.      Rewarding hard work: the person who does the work deserves or is entitled to its benefits.
3.      Protecting the fruits of labor → people are unlikely to invest in long-term projects if they know the products of their labor can be seized at will by others.
ii.      Utilitarianism:
1.      the property is utilitarian → we protect others’ possession as property b/c we desire the same protection for our possessions.
2.      Cost-benefit analysis
iii.      Economic efficiency:
1.      If everything is unowned, or owned communally, under conditions of scarcity people will unduly deplete the resource b/c the individual gain from depletion is greater than the individual cost.
2.      Yet, from the society’s perspective, the aggregate gains from depletion are less than the total cost.
3.      To an individual, these additional costs are external.
4.      Property helps to internalize these costs so that individuals make economically efficient judgments.
5.      If the cod fishery is unowned, individual fishers will take as much cod as they can, since the cost of overfishing is borne by others – external to them. Eventually there will be no more cod. If each fisher had an individual property interest in the fish, the incentive to overfish would be reduced, to the long-run benefit of the fisher  and to society as a whole.
iv.      Custom: property has a customary root. People engaged in a common activity(whaling or hunting) often develop customs that govern their relationships b/w themselves and toward their objects of acquisition or husbandry. Some customs acquire force of law.
c.       Constituent elements of property:
i.      The right to use,
ii.      The right to exclusive possession
iii.      The right to dispose or transfer.
II.            POSSESSION
a.      Discovery
b.      Capture
c.       Creation
d.      The right to exclude/include
e.       The right to destroy
f.       Finders keepers:
i.      Abandoned property
ii.      Lost and mislaid property
1.      Finder v. landowner
iii.      Statutory modification
iv.      Equitable division
g.      Adverse possession.
i.      Rationale:
1.      Sleeping theory
2.      Earning theory
3.      Stability theory
ii.      Elements:
1.      Actual entry
2.      Open and notorious
3.      Hostile or under claim of right:
a.      Good faith
b.      Objective
c.       Aggressive trespass
4.      Continuous
5.      Taxes
iii.      Color of title
iv.      The beginning of the limitations period
v.      By tenants or co-owners
vi.      Boundary disputes:
1.      BUT:
a.      Agreed boundaries
b.      Acquiescence
c.       Equitable estoppel
vii.      Personal property
h.      Accession:
i.      A person in good faith adds his labor to the property of another or
ii.      A person in good faith mixes his labor and his property with the property of another.
iii.      Options of an owner:
1.      To sell the land to the improver at its fair market value (net of the improvement)
2.      Or pay the improver the fair value of the improvement itself.
a.      Acquisition by Discovery and Capture
i.      Johnson v. M’Intosh
ii.      First in time
iii.      Wild animals:
1.      Pierson v. Post
2.      Ghen v. Rich
a.      Violation of custom which is law
3.      Keeble v. Hickeringill
a.      Constructive possession
b.      Interference with the property is inappropriate
c.       Actionable harm
iv.      Fugitive Resources:
1.      Analogy with wild animals
v.      Theory of property rights
1.      Idiosyncratic attachment to property
2.      Accident v. malice
3.      Bundles of rights:
a.      Right to possess the property
b.      To use the property
c.       To exclude others from the property
d.      To include others into property
e.       Dispose the property
f.       Destroy the property
g.      Take all of those rights apart
h.      State v. Shack, 1971:
i.      Farm workers, unconscionable K
4.      Nuisance
a.      Elements:
i.      Substantial
ii.      Non-tresspassory (intangible) invasion
iii.      Invasion on use and enjoyment of land
b.      Relief: cash +injunction
c.       Separate set of doctrines, infringement of one of the rights.
d.      Nuisance/support issue/infringement on usage: analogous
e.       Morgan v. High Penn Oil
f.       Spur: nuisance, injunction → no more cows b/c public interests overweigh private interests
g.      Boomer:
i.      if eccentric use, no nuisance.
ii.      “Overly sensitiveness” factor.
iii.      Permanent damages
iv.      The choice: to pay or to abate nuisance
v.      Rejecting

k.      Test on unreasonableness:
i.      Whether the D’s conduct significantly interferes with:
1.      Public health
2.      Safety
3.      Peace
4.      Comfort
5.      Convenience
ii.      Whether the conduct is prescribed by statute or ordinance
iii.      Whether the conduct is of a continuing nature or has produced a permanent or long-lasting effect?
iv.      Test of unreasonableness: (a) the extent of harm involved; (b) the character of the harm involved; (c) social value that the law attaches to the type of use or enjoyment invaded; (d) the suitability of the particular use or enjoyment invaded to the character of the locality; and (e) the burden on the person harmed of avoiding the harm.
l.        Substantial harm
m.    Intentional or negligent/reckless or abnormally dangerous conduct
n.      Gravity
o.      Utility
p.      Policy
i.      Nuisance suits are about policy questions and courts may not deal with it.
q.      Analyzing nuisance on exam:
i.      Interest protected:
1.      Property interest
ii.      Kind of interference:
1.      Unreasonable
2.      Substantial
iii.      Possibility:
1.      Thresholds test:
a.       Unreasonable and intentional
b.      Substantial
2.      Balancing interests tests:
a.       Financial aspects
b.      Declining property value
c.       Suitability of locality
i.      Building smth. stupidly → nuisance will not protect you. Even if your zoning allows you to build.
d.      First in time
e.       Injury/utility
f.       Value of house/cost of factory
g.      Idiosyncratic attachment to the land
h.      Future profit assessment
i.        Free riders
j.        Rational economic partners
k.      Hold-outs (who have attachment to property, sentimental and economic hold-outs)