Hannah v. Peel – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Hannah v. Peel, King’s Bench Division, K.B. 509 (1945).
Peel (D) bought a home in 1938 but never moved in. In 1940, during World War II, Peel’s home was used by the military. Hannah (P) was a lance-corporal in the Royal Artillery stationed in the house. Hannah found a brooch on a windowsill in a room in a remote part of the house that was being used as a sickbay.
Hannah gave the brooch to the police. In 1942 the police gave it to Peel who then sold it for 66 pounds. There was no evidence that Peel knew of the existence of the brooch before Hannah discovered it. Hannah sued to regain possession of the brooch or its value and Peel in turn asserted that he had superior title because the brooch was found on his property.
Who has superior title to lost property that is found on land owned by another?
Holding and Rule
The finder of lost property has superior title against the owner of the land on which it was found.
The court considered the authorities and adopted the rule of Bridges v. Hawkesworth. In Bridges, the plaintiff found money in Hawkesworth’s shop and left it with him in case the true owner returned. After three years Bridges sued for its return and the court ruled in his favor, holding that the finder of lost property has superior title to all but the true owner.
While a man possesses everything attached to or under his land, he does not necessarily possess a thing lying unattached on the surface. There is no doubt that the brooch was lost property. Peel had neither prior possession of the brooch nor possession of the premises in which it was found at any time.
Judgment for Hannah.
The key issues in the analysis are possession (not ownership) of the land, status and knowledge and the circumstances of the discovery. Peel owned the real estate but was never in possession of it.