Benjamin v. Lindner Aviation, Inc.
34 N.W.2d 400 (Iowa 1995)
State Bank repossessed an airplane from a deadbeat. They
took it to Lindner Aviation for an inspection. Benjamin, who was a
Lindner employee, found $18k in cash hidden inside the wing.
The money was turned over to the police who were unable to
find the original owner.
Benjamin filed for a declaratory judgment establishing
that he was the owner of the money. Both Lindner and State countersued.
The Trial Court found for State. Benjamin appealed.
The Trial Court held that the currency was mislaid
property and belonged to the owner of the plane.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found that the way the money was packaged implied that it was hidden
there intentionally, so it is mislaid property, as opposed to lost
property or abandoned property. Also, the money had not been hidden long enough to be
considered a treasure trove.
The Court found that mislaid property belongs to the owner of the
premises where the property is found. The Court held that this was
State's airplane and not Lindner's hangar.
The basic reasoning behind this rule is that if the true owner of the money attempts to locate it, he
would initially look for the plane; it is unlikely he would begin his
search by contacting businesses where the airplane might have been
There are four categories of found property:
Property is abandoned when the owner no longer wants to
possess it. Abandoned property belongs to the finder of the property
against all others, including the former owner. (That's
Property is lost when the owner unintentionally and
involuntarily parts with its possession and does not know where it is.
This includes stolen property. The finder gets it, unless the true
owner shows up. (That's Benjamin again!)
Mislaid property is voluntarily put in a certain place
by the owner who then overlooks or forgets where the property is. The
finder of mislaid property acquires no rights to the property. The
right of possession of mislaid property belongs to the owner of the
premises upon which the property is found. (That's State!)
Mislaid property goes with the property owner
because, in theory, the true owner might remember where they left it
and go back to the property to recover it.
To be classified as treasure trove, the property must
have been hidden or concealed for such a length of time that the owner
is probably dead or undiscoverable. Treasure trove belongs to the
finder as against all but the true owner. (Benjamin again!)
In a dissent, it was argued that mislaid property
requires the owner to "forget" where the property is. It is
unlikely that someone would go to all that trouble to hide the money and
then forget about it. It is more likely that the money was abandoned