1805, New York Supreme
Decision: Reversed in favor of the defendant
Issue: Did Post, in pursuing the fox, acquire property rights over the fox so that Pierson could not have killed the fox?
Reasoning: Court says that a fox is a wild animal so the question is at what point is there ownership of wild animals, or the words they use are acquired by occupancy. Experts state that animals are only property when they are in the possession of the hunter or mortally wounded so that the hunter will soon catch it. The conduct was unkind but it was not illegal to take away an animal, not in possession of the plaintiff.
Dissent: The fox was Post’s property because he is the one who spent all of the time and effort in pursuit of the fox so taking away that property was unfair to Post. He expended energy for no reason.
Litigation Problem assigned
1. Smith, who was following the pigeon for an unknown number of hours, is the one who mortally wounded the pigeon and thus is entitled to his kill. He was in pursuit but he also accomplished the goal of killing the pigeon, the distinguishing fact is he actually did kill the pigeon and was on his way to pick it up. This is opposed to the facts of Post in which Post still had to catch the fox that was running away. Here, he already caught the pigeon, it was just a matter of picking it up. In an analogous situation, you would not want to approve of people who come in and take a dead animal that a hunter two feet away killed. Even though the stealer is now in possession of the animal, it was only a matter of a minute in which the hunter would have ended up with the kill since it was not moving and there was 0 chance of it getting away. Plus it would piss the hunter off. Here, we already have Smith killing the pigeon and being just a few feet away from it with Jones coming in and stealing it. It is unfair. In addition, we already know that Smith is willing to kill for his art, thus, it is not a stretch to see that Smith would kill Jones for taking his pigeon. It is a surprise that we are not sitting on a murder case and instead more of a tort case. In sum, allowing Smith to keep the pigeon would decrease the disputes that society as though it may increase the amount of litigation. However, societal peace is better.
2. Jones having the pigeon in his possession has the only right of ownership and the only person who can actually prove that he owns the pigeon. Giving it to Smith will open up tons of litigation that will waste time and resources that can go to more important cases. So allowing Jones to keep the pigeon will increase the number of resources that the courts can use for cases that are more at issue with fewer rules than here. Having bright-line rules will improve society and make people happier since they know exactly what the outcome will be. Additionally, there is no way to prove that Smith did, in fact, hit the pigeon and/or that in the future, the hunter’s claims are actually true. Thus, it is easier to just allow Jones to keep it.
3. For Smith: the argument is that Smith put forward the effort and time to capture the pigeon. He put forward the materials and probably wasted a lot of pellets on hitting the pigeon. He deserves it more because it is the fruit of his labors and that is the only way to determine who deserves the fruits of their labors. Also, if this went for arbitration, it is likely that Smith would have ended up with the pigeon so we should support that. Smith was in pursuit and really did want to use the pigeon for his art so Jones, who does not do that art, getting it is not fair. Smith deserves it.
For Jones: We do not know for sure that Jones was not in pursuit of the pigeon at the time that Smith was. Nor do we know that Jones will not be using the pigeon for uses similar to the way that Smith does. Jones also expended a lot of energy to capture the pigeon. He could not have just been standing there and a pigeon drops out of the sky. He must have been following Smith or the pigeon and when he saw the pigeon fall he had to have run at full speed to capture it. He did end up expending energy, possibly more than Smith who just shot the pigeon, and so he deserves it.
Adverse possession – great line – “A thing which you have enjoyed and used as your own for a long time, whether property or an opinion, takes root in your being and cannot be torn away without your resenting the act and trying to defend yourself, however, you came by it.” – Holmes
Rules - 1. The entry has to be actual and exclusive; 2. Open and notorious; 3. Continuous for the statutory period; and 4. Adverse and under a claim of right.