Ghen v. Rich

Procedural History

Ghen (hunter)  v. Rich (finder)


Ghen, is a local whale fisherman in Cape Cod. He catches and kills fin-back whales – the custom of catching these whales is to kill them with a marked net, they float to the bottom, and the arise to either the sea, or the shore.  The finder will contact the killer, and the killer will reward the finder with monetary compensation. In this case, Ellis found the dead whale, and Rich bought it at an auction, where Ghen learned of this and then sued Rich for damages of the market value of oil obtained by the whale minus the cost of trying it out and preparing for the market.

–  This is a case of custom, versus actual physical possession of the wild animal (i.e. in Pierson, custom was hot pursuit, but ultimately was overturned).


Is a wild animal acquired when the hunter apprehends the beast in accordance with custom?




Title to a wild animal is acquired when a hunter apprehends the beast in accordance with custom.

Court reasoning

This fishing industry would be ruined, if the Defendant won this case. There is a lot of time, money and physical work that goes into catching these whales. The only way to successfully do this, is to have them float up, and then turn the blubber into valuable oil.

–  If the fisherman does all that is possible to do to make the animal his own, this should seem to be sufficient.

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