The Right of the Finder of a Lost Property

The Right of the Finder of a Lost Property

The Excellent Spirit Photography is a creative photography company which specializes in diverse areas including intimate weddings, storytelling portraits, glamorous birthdays, victorious graduation etc.
The Company is based in Nigeria but available for destinations everywhere and it services individuals, religious bodies, government agencies, non-governmental organization, multi-national companies to mention but a few.
On the 14 February, 2016, the CEO of the Company, Mr. Tobi Ayelaagbe, in response to his Award as the “Best Photographer of the Year” at the SWAAP2017 seized the opportunity to invited his esteemed customers, colleagues and fans to the official opening of his N1Billion photography studio.
Mr. Ayelaagbe at the event held at the LeadCity University appreciated the audience for their love and implored them to do more for him by gracing the official opening of his studio. He also directed them to check his instagram page @excellentspirit53 for more details.
On the 1st of April, 2016, Mr. Ayelaagbe was indeed very honoured as all and sundry graced the official opening of his standard international studio. At the special occasion, Mr. Ayelaagbe stated that he is first a Medical Laboratory Scientist by profession with a standard laboratory at Victoria Island, Lagos but his love for photography is the main reason for the huge investment.
The following day, Mrs. Jensen, the cleaner of the premises who had just been relieved of her services and was walking away sadly found a sophisticated handbag at a corner just outside the premises. The bag contained the sum of $15,520, an iphone, a Canon EOS 1200D camera and a google glass. While saying she really wish she could retain it, Mrs. Jensen handed the bag over to her former employer, Mr. Ayelaagbe who immediately drew the attention of the police to it.
The bag was in the custody of the police for over six months with various announcements in the newspapers as well as radio and television stations aimed at fetching the owners. After all necessary efforts to get owner of the lost and found bag to claim it, issues arose as to who has a right to the property.
Mr. Tobi Ayelaagbe insisted “I must be given the bag since it could be one of the gifts one of my guests brought for me and, more so, I am the ’employer’ of Mrs. Jensen”. “But you’ve sacked me Sir”, Mrs. Jensen cut in. Mr. Ayelaagbe replied “Haba! Somebody cannot play with you again?”.
Mr. Sashi, the police officer in charged claimed the right to retain the bag since he had laboured so much on it and he is an agent of the government who has all authority to act in the interest of the public. Mrs. Jensen on her side said she would appreciate it if they can share it without leaving her out since she found the bag. Who has a right to the bag?

Points to Note:
1. As a general rule, the law precludes a person from illegally taking the property of another person without justification. Otherwise, the police may charge such a person for stealing and the victim can sue for trespass to chattel, conversion or detinue.
2. However, an exception to this rule is where a person finds a lost, mislaid or abandoned property and shows that all necessary efforts were made to notify the owner of the property.
3. Personal property is considered to be lost if the owner has involuntarily parted with it and is ignorant of its location.
4. Mislaid property is that which an owner intentionally places somewhere with the idea that he will eventually be able to find it again but subsequently forgets where it has been placed.
5. Abandoned property is that to which the owner has intentionally relinquished all rights.
6. Lost or mislaid property continues to be owned by the person who lost or mislaid it. When one finds lost goods, the finder is entitled to possession against everyone with the exception of the true owner.
7. The finder of lost articles on land belonging to someone else is entitled to possession against everyone but the true owner, unless the finder is guilty of trespass.
8. The finder of misplaced goods has no right to their possession. The owner of the place where an article is mislaid has a right to the article against everyone but the true owner.
9. Abandoned property can be possessed and owned by the first person who exercises dominion over it with an intent to claim it as his or her own.
10. In any event, between the finder of a lost, mislaid, or abandoned article and the owner of the place where it is found, the law applies to whatever rule will most likely result in the return of the article to its rightful owner.
11. Note that ordinarily, when articles are found by an employee during and within the scope of his employment, they are awarded to the employer rather than to the employee-finder.
12. The law governing treasure trove differs slightly. Treasure trove is any gold or silver in coin, plate, or bullion that is hidden by an unknown owner in the earth or other private place for an extended period. For example, the billions of dollars kept in water tanks by ‘unknown persons’.
13. The property is not considered treasure trove unless the identity of the owner cannot be ascertained. Under early common law, the finder of a treasure trove took title to it against everyone but the true owner.
14. This doctrine has been altered by several legislation and the government now takes possession of the treasure trove. However, some laws provides for the compensation of the finder. Remember whistleblowing policy? Even in England, the doctrine has been altered by a statute granting title to the crown subject to the claims of the true owner.
15. Note that a person who finds a lost property has a duty to use reasonable diligence to inform the owner and make restitution without compensation, further than a reasonable charge for saving and taking care of the property.
16. If the person fails to do so, the person is liable in damages to the owner and does not have a claim to any reward offered by the owner for the recovery of the thing or to any compensation for the person’s trouble or expenses.
17. In most laws, the finder of a lost is entitled to compensation for all expenses necessarily incurred by the finder in its preservation and for any other service necessarily performed by the finder about it and to a reasonable reward for keeping it.

It is on the basis of the above laws I hold the opinion that Mrs. Jensen has a right to the lost and found bag against the whole world except the true owner. If the bag had been found in Mr. Ayelaagbe’s premises, he would have had the right to claim it and perhaps, if Mrs. Jensen was still in his employment, he would have had the right to the lost and found property.
THE LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede

Joseph Ogunmodede
Founder, THE LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede is a budding lawyer and founder of Nigerian-based innovative network known as THE LEGAL DIARY, an online platform for educating people on their legal rights and duties which is a unique idea that meets the pressing need for public enlightenment in Nigeria.
Since the evolution of THE LEGAL DIARY in January, 2017, he has consistently updated his audience with various legal stories and legal opinions posted on a weekly basis. He has also offered several pieces of advice and legal opinions to a number of clients both online and physically.
He was born in Ogun State, Nigeria, and holds Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Degree from the prestigious University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State where he was awarded a First Class (Honours). He is currently an Intern at B. O. Ogunmodede & Co, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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