Citation. 21 L.J. Q.B. 75 (Queen’s Bench 1851).
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Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff found banknotes on the floor of Defendant’s shop and left the notes with Defendant to return to the proper owner, and, when the notes were unclaimed after three years, asked that the notes be given to Plaintiff, a request which Defendant refused.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The mere fact that the banknotes were found on the floor of Defendant’s shop was not sufficient for the Defendant to retain possession of the notes against the claim of Plaintiff, the finder.
Plaintiff was a traveler who conducted business with the Defendant at the shop of Defendant. During one of Plaintiff’s visits, Plaintiff found a parcel of banknotes on the shop floor. Plaintiff gave the banknotes over to Defendant for the purpose of returning the notes to the proper owner. Three years elapsed with no one claiming the notes. Plaintiff then requested that the notes be returned to Plaintiff, which Defendant refused. Plaintiff brought suit in trover. The lower court ruled for the Defendant.
Does the fact that the notes were found inside Defendant’s shop give him the right to keep them against the claim of the Plaintiff, who found them?
No. Judgment reversed.
First the Court determined that if Defendant was to prevail against Plaintiff it must be determined when the right to the banknotes accrued to Defendant. The Court held that if the Defendant had such a right to ownership of any item found within his shop, the finding itself would not have given the Defendant any right of ownership, insofar as the Defendant would have already owned the item.
The banknotes were held to have never belonged to the Defendant. Because the notes were not intentionally deposited there by the rightful owner, the Defendant had no responsibility to the notes. The Court found no reason to find this case as an exception to the rule established in Armory v. Delamirie, infra, which states that the finder of an object holds title to the object subject to no claims except that of the rightful owner.
Consider the differences between this case and the case which established the precedent upon which this ruling was based.