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Hannah v. Peel

Law Dictionary
CASE BRIEFS

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Property Law Keyed to Dukeminier

Citation. K.B. 509 (King’s Bench 1945).

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, who was a soldier staying in the house owned (but not occupied) by Defendant, found a brooch and then gave the brooch to the police who later, after not finding the rightful owner, gave the brooch to Defendant, who then sold the brooch.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Because Defendant was not physically present in the house at any time, Plaintiff’s find was defensible against all parties except the rightful owner.


Facts. Defendant owned a house, but did not occupy the house. Then, in October of 1939, the house was requisitioned by the government to house soldiers. Defendant was compensated with 250 pounds per month. Plaintiff was housed in the residence in 1940. During his stay he found a brooch. He then alerted Defendant of his find, and took the brooch to the police to find the rightful owner, receiving a receipt. Thereafter, in 1942, the rightful owner was still not located, and the police gave the brooch over to Defendant. Defendant sold the brooch for 66 pounds to a jeweler who resold the brooch for 88 pounds. Plaintiff, through counsel, demanded return of the brooch from Defendant, who refused. The Plaintiff sued claiming return of the brooch, or its value, and damages for its detention.

Issue. Does Plaintiff have a claim of right for finding the brooch against Defendant, who owned the house where the brooch was found but did not ever occupy the house?

Held. Yes. Plaintiff is awarded 66 pounds for the brooch.
The Court must decide between two rules of law, the first being expressed in the case of South Staffordshire Water Co. v. Sharman, infra, which states that if a person finds an object while employed by the property owner he finds the object for the property owner and not for himself, so long as the property owner exercises control over the property. In this case the Court declined to apply this rule because Defendant never actually occupied the house and Defendant does not have an absolute right of ownership of all items found loose upon his property.
The other rule of law is found in Bridges v. Hawkesworth, infra, which the Court decides to follow in the case at bar. The Defendant had never occupied the house and could not have a right of prior possession in the brooch. The conduct of Plaintiff was commendable in this case.
The brooch was “lost” as the word is commonly understood and Plaintiff “found” the brooch as finding is commonly understood. Further, the rightful owner of the brooch has never been located, and that Defendant was notified when the brooch was found. The Court decides that the rule of Bridges v. Hawkesworth, infra, is applicable and that the judgment should be for Plaintiff for 66 pounds.

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Discussion. The key factor here was that Defendant never resided in the house, but was still afforded an opportunity to claim the brooch by Plaintiff. Also, note that Plaintiff did not trespass in order to find the brooch.

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