An action of replevin is designed to obtain possession of personal property that is wrongfully detained by the defendant.
The philatelists (stamp collectors) were the owners of two sets of very rare stamps. Several years after they had purchased the stamps, they saw an advertisement offering them for sale. They brought a replevin action and an action for declaratory judgment against the finder, who alleged that he discovered them in an old dresser he had bought at a used furniture store. The trial court found in favor of the philatelists on both counts. On appeal, the court affirmed, holding that the philatelists had the right to assert an action in replevin because they averred that they owned the stamps and that the finder had unauthorized possession of the stamps when the action was file.
Did the court err in finding favor for the philatelists?
Generally, it may be said that the finder of lost property holds it as a bailee for the true owner. As to all others, the finder's rights "are tantamount to ownership, giving him the right to possess and hold the found goods." In the matter sub judice, Ganter, having found the stamps, had the right to exercise ownership over them against the whole world except the true owners, who were determined by Judge Hammerman to be the brothers Kapiloff. Once the true owners were determined, Ganter's possessory interest ceased.
Moreover, Ganter hypothesizes that because the Kapiloffs failed to insure their stamp collection they were not the true owners. The logic of that hypothesis totally and completely eludes us. It may have been an unwise business practice not to insure the stamps, but the lack of insurance is irrelevant to ownership. Ganter has advanced what appear to be ideas, notions, concepts, and fantasies of what might have been. However they are called, they are not genuine disputes of material facts.