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D. Abandonment and Finding: Cases 97–98

Chapter 3: Acquiring Ownership and Losing Ownership

Cases 97–98

Case 97.  Regarding the definitions set forth in these cases, cf. 1 Am. Jur. 2d Abandoned, Lost, and Unclaimed Property § 18 (2010):

Under the common law, there are four categories of “found property,” which include abandoned property, lost property, mislaid property, and treasure trove.  The rights of a finder of property will depend on how the property is classified. The major distinction between the characterizations of lost property, mislaid property, abandoned property, and treasure trove is that only lost property involves an element of involuntariness. The three remaining categories involve voluntary and intentional acts by the true owner, in placing the property where it is eventually found by another. More expressly, property is “abandoned” where owner intentionally relinquishes possession and rights in the property, while property is “lost” where owner parts with its possession unwittingly and is no longer aware of its location, and is “mislaid” where owner intentionally puts it in a particular place then forgets it and leaves it.

Treasure trove differs from lost property in that property is not lost unless the owner parted with it involuntarily, while it is essential to the character of treasure trove that it shall have been concealed by the original owner for safekeeping. Treasure trove is a special category, which cannot be said to be lost or mislaid property, because the owner’s intent was obviously to put it in a safe place.

Property embedded in the earth includes anything other than gold or silver which is so buried, and is distinguished, in this respect, from “treasure trove.”

Discussion Question:

  1. Consider the distinctions among “lost,” “mislaid,”, and “abandoned” property at common law.  Do they actually turn on anything other than the what would be called corpus and animus in the Roman/civilian tradition?

Case 98.  In many common law jurisdictions,  finders’ rights in “lost” property are regulated by statutes that require notice to an authority and reasonable efforts to identify the true owner, with vesting of title in the finder after the lapse of a limitations period.  See 61 A.L.R. 4th 1180 (1988).

Discussion Question:
  1. Compare the code provisions quoted under Case 98 of the Casebook with Minn. Stat. 345.75 (2010)(c):
    If [tangible personal] property has not been removed within six months after it comes into the possession of a person, it is abandoned and shall become the property of the person in possession, after notice to the prior owner. Thirty days’ notice that the time period has elapsed and that the ownership will be transferred at the end of the 30 days shall be given to the prior owner personally or by certified mail, which is actually received. If the name of the prior owner is not known, and cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence, three weeks’ published notice shall be given in the county where the property is located. The prior owner or another person claiming an interest in the property may petition the district court to stay the transfer of ownership for a reasonable period to allow the removal of the property. The transfer is stayed while the petition is pending before the court.


Chapter 3: Introduction | A. Cases 67–71 | B. Cases 72–93
C. Cases 94–96 | D. Cases 97–98 | E. Cases 99–101
F. Cases 102–104 | G. Cases 105–119 | H. Case 120


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