Corliss v. Wenner

136 Idaho 417, 34 P.3d 1100 (Ct. App. 2001)



At common law all found property is generally categorized in one of five ways. Those categories are: (1) abandoned property--that which the owner has discarded or voluntarily forsaken with the intention of terminating his ownership, but without vesting ownership in any other person; (2) lost property--that property which the owner has involuntarily and unintentionally parted with through neglect, carelessness, or inadvertence and does not know the whereabouts; (3) mislaid property--that which the owner has intentionally set down in a place where he can again resort to it, and then forgets where he put it; (4) treasure trove--gold or silver in coin, plate, bullion, and sometimes its paper money equivalents, found concealed in the earth or in a house or other private place, carrying with it the thought of antiquity; and (5) embedded property--personal property that has become a part of the natural earth.


A worker building a driveway for a landowner found gold coins buried in the earth. He initially shared the coins with his employer, eventually using his half to secure a loan from the employer. The employer eventually relinquished the coins to the landowner in exchange for indemnification in case the worker sues for the coins.  The worker sued both his employer and the landowner for possession of some or all of the coins while the employer countersued on the promissory note. The district court held that the “finders keepers” rule does not apply and declared the gold coins to the landowner. Likewise, the employer obtained summary judgment on the note.


Did employer have the right to seek immediate payment of the loan after the treasure coins given by the worker as security were relinquished to the landowner?




The appeals court affirmed summary judgments for the landowner and the employer in the worker's action seeking possession of the coins. Since the doctrine of treasure trove was no longer part of English common law at the time Idaho Code § 73-116 was enacted, it was not part of Idaho common law. The doctrine would have violated Idaho public policy protecting the rights of landowners. The appeals court announced that landowners were entitled to possession of found property to the exclusion of all but the true owner. The worker no longer had collateral, so his loan was due.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.