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Personal Property

Lost, Mislaid, And Abandoned Property

Personal property is considered to be lost if the owner has involuntarily parted with it and is ignorant of its location. Mislaid property is that which an owner intentionally places somewhere with the idea that he will eventually be able to find it again but subsequently forgets where it has been placed. Abandoned property is that to which the owner has intentionally relinquished all rights.

Lost or mislaid property continues to be owned by the person who lost or mislaid it. When one finds lost goods, the finder is entitled to possession against everyone with the exception of the true owner.

The finder of lost articles on land belonging to someone else is entitled to possession against everyone but the true owner, unless the finder is guilty of TRESPASS. The finder of misplaced goods has no right to their possession. The owner of the place where an article is mislaid has a right to the article against everyone but the true owner. Abandoned property can be possessed and owned by the first person who exercises dominion over it with an intent to claim it as his or her own. In any event, between the finder of a lost, mislaid, or abandoned article and the owner of the place where it is found, the law applies to whatever rule will most likely result in the return of the article to its rightful owner.

Ordinarily when articles are found by an employee during and within the scope of his employment, they are awarded to the employer rather than to the employee-finder.

Treasure trove is any gold or silver in coin, plate, or bullion that is hidden by an unknown owner in the earth or other private place for an extended period. The property is not considered treasure trove unless the identity of the owner cannot be ascertained. Under early COMMON LAW, the finder of a treasure trove took title to it against everyone but the true owner. This doctrine was altered in England by a statute granting title to the crown subject to the claims of the true owner. The U.S. law governing treasure trove has, for the most part, been merged into the law governing lost property. However, certain cases have held that the old treasure trove law has not been combined into the lost property statutes. In some instances, the early common law of England has been held to apply in the absence of a statute governing treasure trove. Regardless of which principles are applied, however, in the absence of contrary statutory provision, the title to treasure trove belongs to the finder against all others with the exception of the true owner. If there is a controversy as to ownership between the true owner and the state, the owner is entitled to treasure trove.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Patients Rights to PlatPersonal Property - Possession, Possession Of Animals, Lost, Mislaid, And Abandoned Property, Confusion And Accession - Gifts