Edmonds v. Ronella

73 Misc. 2d 598, 342 N.Y.S.2d 408 (Sup. Ct. 1973)



Equity in its broadest and most general signification denotes the spirit and the habit of fairness, justness and right dealing which would regulate the intercourse of men with men, the rule of doing to all others as we desire they should do to us; or, as it is expressed by Justinian "to live honestly, to harm nobody, to render to every man his due." It is, therefore, the synonym of natural right or justice, but in this sense its obligation is ethical rather than jural, and its discussion belongs to the sphere of morals. It is grounded in the precept of the conscience.


As they were rummaging around a grocery store parking lot on their way home from church one day, minors discovered a manila envelope with money in it. Not sure what to do with it, they took it to defendant minor, who brought it home with her, and after consulting with her parents, told the minor that her family would handle the matter. The police were called to defendant minor's home, the money was tagged by them, and defendant minor was listed as its sole finder. The minors filed an action against defendant minor alleging that they held title to monies they discovered.


Did all the minors hold title to the monies?




In issuing its decision, the court stressed that equity required justness and fair dealing to ensure that every man was rendered his due. The court declared that the money was not "found" all parties had it. Given that and the principle that a finder of property acquires a right in it against all but the true owner, the court ruled that each party was entitled to an equal one-third share of the monies. Given that all parties were minors, provision was made that once the money was removed from the police property clerk, it be placed in a depository institution, subject to the order of the court, until each party turned 21.

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