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Law School Case Brief

Flax v. Monticello Realty Co. - 185 Va. 474, 39 S.E.2d 308 (1946)

Rule:

Where money and bonds and packages of bills have been found in such public places as lobbies, dining rooms, halls and the like, to which the public has access, the finder is entitled to the property found, as against every one except the rightful owner, but a private room in a hotel or an inn is a very different locus in quo. As to mislaid and forgotten property, the innkeeper, as the custodian, owes a duty to the owner of the chattel.

Facts:

The finder was occupying a room at the hotel when he found a diamond brooch in his room that was placed on a dresser by the maid. The finder left the brooch with the hotel with the understanding that if the true owner did not return for it, the brooch would have been returned to the finder. The hotel refused to return the brooch to the finder and the finder brought an action in detinue. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the finder and the trial court set aside the verdict. The finder challenged the decision of the trial court.

Issue:

Was the finder entitled to possession of the lost brooch he found while staying at the hotel room?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court and held that the finder had no legal standing as a claimant to the brooch because where a person had possession of land, with a manifest intent to exercise control over it and the things which may have been upon or in it, then if something was found on that land, the presumption was that the possession of the thing was in the owner of the locus in quo. The court held that the hotel was in direct and continued control of its guestrooms.

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