Pierson v. Post – Case Brief Summary

Pierson v. Post, 3 Cai. R. 175, 2 Am. Dec. 264 (N.Y. 1805).

Facts

Post (P) was in pursuit of a fox while hunting with his hounds. Pierson (D) killed and captured the fox despite knowing that Post had been pursuing it. Neither party owned the land on which they were hunting. Post brought suit in trespass on the case, contending that he acquired title to the fox when he began to hunt it. Pierson asserted that Post did not have control over the fox and therefore had not acquired any property interest in it. The trial court entered judgment for Post and the plaintiff appealed.

Issue

  • Does the mere fact that a person is pursuing a wild animal grant that person a right to the animal?

Holding and Rule

  • No. The mere fact that a person is pursuing a wild animal does not grant that person a right to the animal.

In order to obtain title to a ferae naturae (wild animal) a person must take it. The “first to kill and capture” is the superior rule of law. Had Post mortally wounded the animal, it would have been sufficient to show possession since this would have deprived the animal of its natural liberty. However, the plaintiff was only able to show pursuit and therefore acquired no property interest in the animal.

Disposition

Reversed.

Dissent

The death of a fox is a matter of public interest. As a matter of public policy our decision should offer the greatest possible encouragement to the destruction of this animal. Because it was nearly certain that Post would have captured the fox the judgment should be affirmed.

Notes

The dissent sought to reward the pursuer for his effort. The majority rule however is very easy to administer.

See Paradine v. Jane for another property law case brief involving an issue of possession in connection with a lease of real estate.


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