Hannah v. Peel, 1 K.B. 509, was a 1945 English legal case decided in the King's Bench Division of the High Court. The court held that the owner of the locus in quo does not have a superior right to possession over the finder of lost property that is unattached to the land.[1]

Facts edit

The defendant, Major Hugh E. E. Peel, owned Gwernhaylod House, Overton-on-Dee, Shropshire. He bought it in December 1938, but did not move in, and shortly after the Second World War broke out, it was requisitioned for military use.

In August 1940, the plaintiff, Lance-Corporal Duncan Hannah of the Royal Artillery, was staying in the house on army business. During his stay, LCpl Hannah found a brooch on top of a window frame. From its dirty, cobwebby state the brooch seemed to have been there for a long time. LCpl Hannah consulted his commanding officer who advised him to hand it to the police, which Hannah did.

Nobody claimed the brooch, and in August 1942, the police returned it to Major Peel. Peel then sold it for £66.

LCpl Hannah asked Maj Peel for this money. Peel offered Hannah a reward, but he refused and said he wanted the brooch instead. Maj Peel, because he owned the building in which the brooch was found, claimed it was his. LCpl Hannah brought the case to dispute this.

Judgment edit

Birkett J found that Hannah's claim to the brooch outweighed Peel's.[2]

References edit

  1. ^ Casner, A.J. et al. Cases and Text on Property, Fifth Edition. Aspen Publishers, New York, NY: 2004, p. 86
  2. ^ Hannah v Peel (King's Bench 1945) ("...the moment the plaintiff discovered that the brooch might be of some value, he took the advice of his commanding officer and handed it to the police. His conduct was commendable and meritorious. The defendant was never physically in possession of these premises at any time. It is clear that the brooch was never his, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, in that he had the prior possession. He had no knowledge of it, until it was brought to his notice by the finder. A discussion of the merits does not seem to help, but it is clear on the facts that the brooch was "lost" in the ordinary meaning of that word; that it was "found" by the plaintiff in the ordinary meaning of that word, that its true owner has never been found, that the defendant was the owner of the premises and had his notice drawn to this matter by the plaintiff, who found the brooch. In those circumstances I propose to follow the decision in Bridges v. Hawkesworth, and to give judgment in this case for the plaintiff...").