Armory v. Delamirie – Case Brief
Armory v. Delamirie, King’s Bench, 1 Strange 505 (1722).
Facts: Armory (P), a chimney sweep, found a jeweled ring while cleaning a chimney and took it to Delamirie (D), a jeweler, for appraisal. Delamirie’s apprentice took the stones from the socket. Delamirie then offered Armory three half-pence. P refused and sued in trover for money damages for the value of the jewels.
Issue: What rights does a finder of property have in the property?
Holding and Rule: A finder of a chattel does not acquire an absolute property right, however he does have title superior to everyone except the rightful owner. Regarding damages, the court held that when damages are at some unascertainable amount below an upper limit and when the uncertainty arises from the defendant’s wrong, the upper limit will be taken as the proper amount. The court held that D was liable for the highest possible value of the stones unless he produced them for the court. D was also liable for the acts of his apprentice in removing the stones.
Disposition: Judgment for P.
Notes: This case illustrates an application of the prior possessor rule, whereby the title of the finder is superior to anyone but the true owner.