Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lost Property Property

How appropriate -- a member of GW's maintenance staff knocked on my office door this morning and handed me something someone had left in one of our bathrooms and asked me to return it to the rightful owner. What was this lost property? It was a copy of "PROPERTY LAW" by Joseph Singer.

So who owns it now? The popular lore is "finders keepers, losers weepers," but this rule is not accurate. The finder does acquire title to the found property that is superior to that of any third party, but the finder's title is still subordinate to that of the rightful owner.

In Armory v. Delamirie, 93 Eng. Rep. 664 (K.B. 1722), pp. 95-96 of the Singer book, a chimney sweep's boy found a jewel and took it to a goldsmith's for identification. The goldsmith kept the jewel and offered the boy only three halfpence. A court later ruled that the boy, the finder of the jewel, was not the true owner, but had a title superior to anyone but the true owner, and so could recover the jewel, or its value, from the goldsmith, a third party who had no title.

So the GW employee who found the book had the right to keep it against the demand of anyone but the rightful owner, a right that he has now transferred, I would say, to me. I'm keeping the book until the rightful owner shows up.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the GW employee still have superior title? You seem to be in the same position as the goldsmith.

Jon Siegel said...

Good question, but I think the maintenance employee made a gift of whatever his rights in the book are to me. He didn't seem to expect the book back.

Anonymous said...

Hi There I'd love to congratulate you for such a great quality site!
I was sure this would be a perfect way to make my first post!

Hilary Driscoll
if you're ever bored check out my site!
[url=http://www.partyopedia.com/articles/unicorn-party-supplies.html]unicorn Party Supplies[/url].