Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff bought timber from McCoy, who had a grant issued by the state as to the land, but the same land had been previously granted to Busbee. Defendant later took the timber from Plaintiff without permission.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to maintain an action in trover, the Plaintiff must show title and possession, or a present right to the possession.
But, if it appears on the trial, that the plaintiff, although in possession, is not in fact the owner, and that the property belongs to a third person, the presumption of title, inferred from the possession, is rebutted: and it would be manifestly wrong to allow the plaintiff to recover the value of the property.View Full Point of Law
Issue. May Plaintiff maintain a trover action against Defendant for interference with any right of possession of Plaintiff?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
Busbee, the trustee, was found to be the legal owner of the tract of land. McCoy was found to have not been in possession of the tract. If McCoy had been in adverse possession, then the title to the logs would have passed to Plaintiff, who could then maintain this action. In such a scenario Busbee would have been compelled to seek damages from McCoy for violation of the freehold.
This is an action in trover, and to recover, Plaintiff must show both title and possession or a present right to possession. This Court notes the decision of Armory v. Delamirie, infra, but states that this case is distinguishable insofar as the rightful owner of the logs and the land is Busbee, trustee. In Armory v. Delamirie, infra, the court stated that the case would be different if the rightful owner were known. In this case trover cannot lie in favor of Plaintiff, as finder, because the rightful owner is known. Allowing Plaintiff to recover for trover here would subject Defendant to being held liable both by the Plaintiff and by the rightful owner for the same logs.
Discussion. This case illustrates the need for grants and deeds to be recorded and checked before being granted to another.