O'Connell & Riley, Esqs.

Possession

Is Possession Really Nine-Tenths of the Law?

An owner of property retains ownership of that property even though the owner has lost or misplaced the property. However, anyone who finds and possesses the lost or misplaced property retains a right to possess it against everyone except the true owner. The finder even retains the right to possess the property against a subsequent finder. This supports a public policy of protecting peaceable possession and deterring disorder. This rule applies even if the finder is a trespasser or a thief.

Establishing Possession

A finder establishes possession by showing that he has actual physical control over lost or misplaced property and that he has an intent to exercise control over that property to the exclusion of others. In some cases, constructive possession and an intent to exercise control will be sufficient. A finder has constructive possession of property that is buried under the surface of land or hidden inside another object, such as a desk or a piano, even though the finder does not know that the object is there.

Lost and Misplaced Property

The difference between lost and misplaced property is that lost property was unintentionally lost, whereas misplaced property was intentionally placed somewhere and later forgotten.

Abandoned Property

The distinguishing feature of abandoned property is that the owner has intentionally discarded the item and his rights to that item. For example, an item placed in the trash by the owner is abandoned property. Abandoned property becomes the property of the finder, to the exclusion of the owner.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Areas of Practice

  • Accidents
  • Airbag Injuries
  • Auto Accidents
  • Automobile Accidents
  • Automobile Injuries
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