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Chapin v. Freeland - 142 Mass. 383, 8 N.E. 128 (1886)

Rule:

Where the statute of limitations would be a bar to a direct proceeding by the original owner, it cannot be defeated by indirection within the jurisdiction where it is law. If he cannot replevy, he cannot take with his own hand. A title that will not sustain a declaration will not sustain a plea.

Facts:

Two counters, which belonged to defendant, were without the defendant’s knowledge or authority, placed by one Warner in a shop built by him on his land. The counters were nailed to the floor and used there. Four years after, Warner mortgaged the premises to a certain DeWitt who, eight years later, foreclosed the mortgage and sold the premises to plaintiff. Twelve years after the counters had been taken initially, defendant learned where the counters were and took them from plaintiff's possession. Plaintiff then filed an action for replevin, contending that defendant wrongfully removed the counters in his possession. According to the plaintiff, the counters passed as part of the realty when she purchased the premises where the counters were located and defendant had lost the right to take the counters back because the statute of limitation barred recovery of them. The trial court found for the defendant, holding that the statute of limitation could not prevent the defendant from taking possession of the property in question because she was the original owner thereof. The plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Under the circumstances, can the defendant still recover the counters in question?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

According to the Court, where the statute of limitations would be a bar to a direct proceeding by the original owner, it cannot be defeated by indirection within the jurisdiction where it is law. If he cannot replevy, he cannot take with his own hand. In the case at bar, the Court held that the statutory period has run before the plaintiffs acquired the counters, and as such, the title passed and defendant was not entitled to recover them.

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