FINDERS Finders In order to ease transactions involving bailments, ownership is presumed with possession. * If finding is within scope of employment, then item found goes to employer. LOST ITEMS Prior possessor prevails over subsequent possessor, even if prior possessor gained title wrongfully: to discourage unlawful seizure and the hiding of found items. ♦ THE FINDER HAS PROPERTY RIGHTS AGAINST ALL BUT RIGHTFUL OWNER. Armory v. Delamirie 1722: Chimney sweep boy found jewel, took it to jeweler to have it evaluated (bailment); jeweler kept the stones. Rule: Action for trover (forced sale) granted, jeweler pays boy value of jewel at best quality. If owner returns for jewel, he must sue the boy—action is usually barred against current possessor if finder has recovered from him. Hannah v. Peel 1945: Soldier, staying in requisitioned home of defendant, found brooch covered in dust and cobwebs in window sill. Rule: Because Defendant was never in physical possession of the estate, and he had no knowledge of the brooch until notice by finder, soldier gets brooch. In contrast to other case law pointing to fact that owner of land possesses all on and in land, whether or not he is aware of its presence. Policy: to award honest corporal. MISLAID ITEMS An item is mislaid if it was placed somewhere intentionally and accidentally neglected—evidence in location of where item is found or in mere absence of positive evidence of abandonment. ♦ IF ITEM IS MISLAID, IT GOES TO THE OWNER OF THE SITE, IF IT IS LIKELY THE TRUE OWNER WILL RETURN TO SITE FOR ITEM. McAvoy v. Medina 1866: Plaintiff found pocketbook on counter of barber shop. Rule: Neither party has rightful possession, but shopkeeper has duty for safekeeping—must make reasonable efforts to find owner. If owner doesn’t return after reasonable efforts, shopkeeper—not finder—gets pocketbook. Terry: Box of cash found in ceiling of motel is mislaid, goes to owner of motel. Benjamin: Cash found in airplane wing is mislaid, belongs to owner of plane, not hangar. ABANDONED ITEMS Abandoned items defined by positive evidence that they are not merely mislaid. When interest of true owner excluded, often land owner will get property over the finder, to discourage trespassers. FINDERS In re seizure: Cash found in gas tank of DEA-seized car is abandoned by dealer, goes to owner of car, finder and owner of site. Lost True Owner Wins over finder and owner of location Finder Wins unless found as part of employment, in trespass, or embedded in soil of another land owner. Owner of Location Wins if finder trespasses, finds as part of employment for land owner, or if item is embedded in his soil. Owner of location wins over finder. Mislaid Abandoned Wins over Finder and owner of location. N/A Wins unless found in part of employment, in trespassing, or if embedded in soil of another land owner. Wins if finder trespasses, finds as part of employment for land owner, or if item is embedded in his soil.
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