Key is to determine the relative rights of the parties involved in the litigation.
Problem arises because no record keeping system for chattels, hard to determine who owned what at what time.
Found/Already Owned Property Categories (difficult to establish category at time of finding)
Original owner intentionally and voluntarily relinquishes all rights to the property
Rule: Finder acquires all rights to property against all.
Original owner unintentionally and involuntarily parts with the property and does not know where it is.
Rule: Finder acquires all rights to property except against all but the original owner (except if finder is a trespasser, employee, guest, or licensee or if property is found in a highly private locus or buried, owner of locus gets possessory rights).
Ex. Hannah v. Peel (Supp)
Man bought house, never visited it. House was rented out to soldiers. One soldier found a brooch hidden in the house. Dispute between soldier and owner of house as to ownership.
Held that a man possesses everything which is attached to or under his land. But a man does not possess a thing which is lying unattached on the surface of his land even though it is not possessed by someone else. Brooch was lost property, goes to soldier.
Original owner intentionally places property in a specific place but forgets to reclaim it or forgets where it is.
Rule: Finder acquires no rights to property. Owner of the premises where found entitled to possession against all but the original owner.
Ex. McAvoy v. Medina
Patron saw pocketbook in barbershop, gave it to the barber to hold. No one claimed, man wanted it. Barber kept.
Held that the locus owner has the right to mislaid property over the finder. (original owner over that of locus owner)
Other Possible Bright-Line Rules
Easiest to enforce
People will be more careful with their property.
Encourage finding of lost property
Encourage productive use of property
Original Owner Priority
No policies furthered; no incentive for return of property to original owner.
Division Between Original Owner and Finder
People will be careful with their property.
Encourage finding of lost property.
Encourage productive use of property.
Gifts Inter Vivos
Ordinary gift from one person to another.
Intent - donor must intend to make an immediate gift
Delivery - the donor must, in fact, deliver the gift to the donee
Acceptance - the donee must accept the gift
Gifts Causa Mortis
Gift made from one person to another in anticipation of the donor's death.
3 Requirements + immediate apprehension of death required
If donor survives the anticipated death, gift is revoked (suicide doesn't count).
Ex. Newman v. Bost (Supp)
Man on deathbed verbally gave his housekeeper his furniture in his bedroom. Life insurance policy was in a drawer in the bedroom. She claimed it.
Held that when property is present and actual delivery is possible (i.e. not too heavy or impractical), actual delivery must be done for a valid gift. For property that is not present or too heavy or large, symbolic or constructive delivery might be proper.
Must be clear that deceased knew what he was doing and intended to make the gift.
Used to give U.S. government title to the lands in America over Native Americans.
Ex. Johnson and Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh - U.S. has title to lands because Europeans obtained title when they discovered America.
Europeans could not give back any of the sticks because Indians were violent and hostile.
Indians were not making efficient use of the land.
Europeans used Euclidean Title System - did not fit with Indians' system.
Property is fixed (based on geography, not purpose)
Property title is traceable
Property title is exclusive (two people cannot hold same stick).
Old Cannot Shot Rule
A country's territory extends 3 miles from their coast (because this is how far a cannon could shoot).
After WWII, Truman says US can claim further out.
12 miles - Exclusive Economic Zone - can restrict passage, have exclusive right to goods within that zone
Continental Shelf Rule
Have exclusive right to goods if can prove it is a part of your continental shelf