GODDARD v. WINCHELL

Supreme Court of Iowa, 1892.

86 Iowa 71, 52 N.W. 1124.

 

Facts

The Plaintiff Goddard, land owner, took an action in replevin (to recover specific items of property. You would sue Hoagland and Elickson for Damages) for a meteorite that had landed on his land, became submerged into three feet of soil, and was consequently removed by a Hoagland (under the supervision of tenant of Goddard’s, Elickson), and was sold by Hoagland to Defendant Winchell for $105.

Procedural History

The district court gave judgment for the Plaintiff, from which the Defendant appealed.

Issue

Is a meteorite a “movable” whose title goes to the persons who find or occupy the object first?

Arguments for Both Parties

The Plaintiff argues that objects that become affixed to the soil, become a part of the soil and thus remain in the ownership of the one who holds the deed to said soil.

The defendant argues that the object is not a part of the soil, distinctly “alien” by the definition of alien, and that the object constitutes a “movable,” meaning an object which has no owner until the first finder claims such ownership.

Rule

Nature’s deposits, however unfamiliar, are the property of the one who holds title to the rest of the nature where it is deposited.

Holding

The court holds that meteorites are a form, and yet a novel form, of a natural deposit, and natural deposits are owned by the person or persons who hold the deed and title to the rest of the land whereon the deposit accretes.

Reasoning behind Holding

The reasoning behind the court’s decision is that many accretions of natural origin could be considered “movable” if meteorites were considered movable and this is because a meteorite is a natural deposit, indistinguishable from other formations such as boulders where the only difference between the boulder and the meteorite would be the time in which the deposit occurred.

Policy Arguments

Suddenly, many things would become “findable” and this would have an adverse effect on the values of property.

Winchell is the purchaser. Goddard is the owner. Hoagland is the seller.

In terms of BFP.

Hoagland never had ownership. But Elickson, the tenant, could be described as giving the meteorite to Hoagland to sell. He may be able to do this because Elickson has tenant rights. This is the type of thing you need to say in order for the most important points on the exam.

Winchell is taking all the risk of ownership by buying it because he has not verified the history of the meteorite.

The Common Law BFP rules apply here. But you need to bring up the UCC Entrustment Code as well and the fact that there are no merchants. So Goddard wins according to this statute.

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