Aviation Law: “Finders Keepers” Case Studies Examples
Type of paper: Case Study
Topic: Business, Property, Commerce, Law, Owner, Court, Crime, Criminal Justice
In the case facts for Benjamin v. Lindner Aviation, Inc., 534 NW2d 400 (1975), the State Central Bank bought an airplane in 1991 when the bank reclaimed the aircraft when the owner default on the payments. Later in the same year, the bank delivered the plane to Lindner Aviation for a periodic yearly inspection. The appellant in the case, Heath Benjamin, was assigned the task to conduct the inspection for the aircraft. One component of the inspection required Benjamin to remove the planes from the wing’s undersurfaces. Though the panels had to be detached as part of the annual inspection schedule, some of the screws that held the left wing were too corroded that Benjamin needed a drill to dislodge the screws.
Benjamin, in the course of the court proceedings, asserted that the panel had not been replaced for a number of years. Upon inspection, Benjamin averred that he found two packs that were four inches in height and was enclosed in aluminum foil. Benjamin extracted the packets and subsequently removed the wrapping of the packets. He discovered that the packets were actually money wads, secured with strings and then enclosed in handkerchiefs. The money was mainly $20 bills with print dates from the 1960s, with the majority from the 1950s. Benjamin proceeded to take of the parcels and reported to his immediate superior, with Benjamin offering the supervisor an equal share in the proceeds.
Benjamin’s superior, however, immediately contacted the company owner, William Engle. Engle held that the police be contacted, calling the Department of Criminal Investigation. The money was ultimately entrusted to the Keokuk police. Later on, Benjamin filed a statement with the county actuary that identified himself as the finder of the currencies under the tenets of chapter 644 of Iowa’s Code. Lindner Aviation and the bank undertook similar motions to claim the currency found in the plane. The notifications mandated by chapter 644 were hence posted and disseminated (H2O-Harvard Law School 1).
In court, Benjamin averred that since the actual owner of the money had not come forward to claim rightful ownership of the packets, he was entitled to the money, and filed the appropriate motions to gain ownership. However, the courts found in favor of the bank, ruling that the money can be considered as “mislaid property” and the law being used to justify the ownership of the matter was only applicable to “lost property.” Benjamin was given a 10 percent “finder’s fee” and assailed the decision in court (Lawnix 1).
Common law traditionally classifies “found property” into four types. “Found property” can be “mislaid, lost, abandoned, or treasure trove.” The property is misplaced when the “owner intentionally places [the item] in a certain place and later forgets about it (Terry v Lock, Ark. 452, 37 S.W. 3d 202, 207 (2001). The property is considered “lost” when the owner inadvertently loses possession of the item by way of negligence or sloppiness (Id at 206). When the item has been jettisoned, or was deliberately thrown over by the owner, then the property is regarded as “abandoned.”
Lastly, if the property has been verified as archaic and has been hidden for a good number of years to a point that one can consider the possibility that the owner of the property is dead or unnamed, then the property can be interpreted as a “treasure trove.” The right of the claimant is dependent on the manner that the court comprehends the property. In defining the property, a court of law must examine and evaluate all of the attendant factors and components of the case.
In the operation of common law, “the spotter of mislaid property must turn the property over to the premises owner, who ‘has the duty to safeguard the property for the true owner’” as cited in Corliss v. Wenner, 34 P. 3d 1100 (Idaho 2001), cited in Terry, 37 S.W. 3d at 206. Noticeably, it is only the category of “lost property” that engages an element of accidental conduct. The other classifications involve deliberate and volitional actions by the true owner in entrusting property in a place where another person inadvertently finds the same.
Benjamin argued that chapter 644 of the Iowa Code has effectively nullifies the standards set in common law regarding the classifications and the rights of the finder relevant to the type of property. In constructing the argument, Benjamin states that “lost property” is designed to stir and expedite the “return of the property to the true owner, and then reward the finder for his honesty if the property remains unclaimed,” as noted in Paset v. Old Orchard Bank and Trust Co., 62 Ill. App. 3d 534, 19 Ill. Dec. 389, 393, 378 N.E. 2d 4264, 1268 (1978). In addition, Benjamin argued the tenets of Willmore vs. Township of Oceola, 106 Mich. App. 671, 308 N.W. 2d 796, 804 (1981), where it states that the law on lost goods “provides protection to the finder, a reasonable method of uniting goods with their true owner, and a plan which benefits the people of the state through their local governments.” These principles, in the argument posited by Benjamin, will be best attained by applying them to all types of discovered items.
In the holding of the Iowa Supreme Court, it believed that the Michigan appellate courts had a supplemental reason in Willsmore to implement the Michigan law to all categories of unearthed property. The court in Michigan took note that the common law digressions regarding the categories were adopted in Michigan in the wake of the enactment of the “lost property” law in the state. In this light, the Michigan court resolved that the plenum could not have designed the possibility that the term “lost property” to display the differences that were not in operation at the time. Withal, the Michigan tribunal did not deal with the fact that the variegations were first developed in England, prior to the adoption of the states’ adoption of their respective laws on “lost property.” In addition, the High Court has ruled that it believes that the property found by Benjamin was misplaced.
In Eldridge v. Herman, 291 N.W. 2d 319,320 (Iowa 1980), the factor of the location of the area where the property was discovered is a critical factor in the establishment of the question whether the item can be classified as lost or misplaced. In its resolution, the Iowa High Court supported the decision of the district magistrate that the parcels containing the money was “mislaid property” and is supported by extensive amounts of evidence. The majority affirmed the finding of the district court that the bank has the right against all parties save for the true owner (H2O-Harvard Law School 1).
Aalberts, Robert. Real Estate Law. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2014 Print
H20-Harvard Law School “Benjamin v. Lindner Aviation, Inc.” <https://h2o.law.harvard.edu/cases/2923
Lawnix. “Benjamin v. Lindner Aviation, Inc.” <http://www.lawnix.com/cases/benjamin-lindner.html