Armory v. Delamirie


Armory (Plaintiff) was a window sweeper’s child.  Armory found a jewel and brought the jewel to the Delamirie’s (Defendant) shop.  The master of the shop offered the plaintiff money and took the stones without the finder’s authority.


When a person finds an abandoned property, does the finder have rights to that property against a 3rd party?




A finder of lost property obtains title sufficient to prevail over every other claimant except the true owner.

Prior Possessor rule

  1. Protects an owner that cannot prove that he is the true owner.
  2. Protects individuals who entrust goods to others, and promotes social welfare (i.e. giving laundry to a Laundromat, the person is the prior possession, so he should need not worry of getting his/her clothes back).
  3. Protects the expectations of prior possessors who expect to prevail.
  4. It promotes peaceable possession, if prior possessors did not prevail, individuals may begin to steal property, hoping that the law would protect them.

Court reasoning

–          The finder of the jewel, though he does not by such finding acquire absolute property or ownership, but has such ownership against all but the rightful owner.

–          Action will lay against the master, who gives credit to his apprentice and is answerable for his neglect (agency principles of master/servant in a workplace atmosphere).

–          Unless the defendant gave the jewel back to the plaintiff, the plaintiff would be awarded damages as to what the jewel would actually be worth.

Since P found the jewel, and D is not the rightful owner, possession vest w/ the finder of the jewel.

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