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Anderson v. Gouldberg - 51 Minn. 294, 53 N.W. 636 (1892)

Rule:

Possession only raises a presumption of title, which, however, may be rebutted. One who takes property from the possession of another can only rebut this presumption by showing a superior title in himself, or in some way connecting himself with one who has. One who acquires the possession of property, whether by finding, bailment, or by mere tort, has a right to retain that possession as against a mere wrongdoer who is a stranger to the property. Any other rule leads to an endless series of unlawful seizures and reprisals in every case where property once passes out of the possession of the rightful owner.

Facts:

Sigfrid Anderson filed suit against the defendants, partners as Gouldberg & Anderson, to recover the possession of 93 pine logs, marked L S X, or for the value thereof. Anderson claimed to have cut the logs, section 22, township 27, range 25, Isanti County, in the winter of 1889-1890, and to have hauled them to a mill on section 6, from which place defendants took them. Both Anderson and the defendants were entire strangers to the property where the logs were cut and considered trespassers. Defendants, however, claimed that the logs were cut on section 26, in the adjoining township, on land belonging to the Ann River Logging Company, and that they took the logs by direction of the Logging Company, who were the owners. The District Court of Isanti County entered a verdict for Anderson, the possessor of the property, and assessed his damages in an action to recover the possession of pine logs. The trial court denied defendants' motion for a new trial. Defendants challenged the trial court’s decision.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in its decision to enter a verdict in favor of the plaintiff as the rightful possessor?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed and found that plaintiff obtained possession of the logs in the first instance by trespassing upon the land of some third party. According to the Court, possession was good title against the entire world except those having a better title; possession only raised a presumption of title. The Court opined that one who took property from the possession of another could only rebut the presumption by showing a superior title in himself or in some way connecting himself with one who had superior title. In the case at bar, the court held that one who acquired the possession of property, whether by finding, bailment, or by mere tort, had a right to retain that possession as against a mere wrongdoer who was a stranger to the property.

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