The finder of mislaid property acquires no rights to the property. The right of possession of mislaid property belongs to the owner of the premises upon which the property is found, as against all persons other than the true owner.
A finder discovered money within the wings of an airplane. The finder claimed that he was entitled to the money, after one year, sought a declaration of rights pursuant to Iowa Code § 644 (1991). The owner of the plane claimed the money as against the finder. The district court determined that the statute only applied to lost property, that the money was mislaid property, and that it therefore belonged to the owner of the premises where it was found, which in that case was the plane. The district court awarded the finder a 10 percent finder's fee pursuant to Iowa Code § 644.13 (1991).
Is hidden money considered "mislaid" property?
The court held that the district court's finding that the money was mislaid property was supported by substantial evidence because (1) the district court correctly looked to the common law classifications of found property to determine the rights, and (2) the place where the money was found and the manner in which it was hidden supported an inference that the money had been intentionally placed in the wing. The court held that the district court erred in awarding a finder's fee because § 644.13 only applied to lost, and not mislaid, property.