Hawkins v. Mahoney

1999 MT 296, 297 Mont. 98, 990 P.2d 776



The presumption or inference of intent to abandon one's property, based solely upon the acts of the owner, is a rebuttable presumption. A "rebuttable presumption" is one which may be rebutted by evidence. 



Plaintiff brought the action to recover the value of his personal property from defendants. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, concluding that plaintiff had abandoned his property by his escape and that the abandonment constituted a complete defense to any action brought by plaintiff, which depended on his ownership of the property. 


Is the inference of intent to abandon one’s property, based solely upon the acts of the owner, a rebuttable presumption?




The court concluded that when plaintiff escaped from prison, there was a rebuttable presumption that he intended to abandon the property that he left behind. Upon plaintiff's return to the prison and request for his property prior to it being claimed by anyone else, he effectively rebutted the presumption that he ever intended to abandon his property. When plaintiff reclaimed his property by requesting it be returned to him, he regained his status as the owner of his personal property. The judgment was reversed and remanded.

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