Clark v. Maloney

3 Del. 68 (1840)

 

RULE:

When the plaintiff has shown a special property, which he never abandoned, and which enables him to keep it against all the world but the rightful owner, he is entitled to a verdict. 

FACTS:

Plaintiff found logs floating and moored them; subsequently they were lost and came into the possession of defendants, who refused to give them to plaintiff, contending they had found them adrift, and asserting a sufficient property in the logs as to any but the original owner. Plaintiff brought an action in trover to recover the value of logs from defendant.  The court held that possession, while prima facie evidence of property, could be rebutted by evidence of better title, which plaintiff had shown.

ISSUE:

Was there sufficient evidence that plaintiff has shown a special property in the logs?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Plaintiff's possession was good against all but the original owner, and having shown a special property, unabandoned, was entitled to a verdict in his favor. A finder acquired such a property right as would enable him to keep it against all but the rightful owner. However, the loss of the chattel did not change plaintiff's right of property, just as the original loss by the rightful owner did not change his absolute property. Accordingly, the subsequent loss did not divest the special property of plaintiff. Plaintiff, having shown a special property, unabandoned, which enabled him to keep it against all the world but the rightful owner, was entitled to a verdict. 

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