Pierson v. Post Case Brief

Summary of Pierson v. Post, Supreme Ct. of NY (1805)

Parties: Appellant is hunter who acquired possession of animal by capture by killing the animal. DF/appellee claims he had possession by actually going through the trouble of hunting the animal down.

Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is a tort action for trespass to chattels.

Procedural History: Lower court held for Post. Upon review, case reversed.

Facts: Pierson shot, killed, and claimed a fox which he knew was being hunted by Post. Pierson claims possession by actually killing the animal; Post claims possession in that he saw it first.

Issue(s): Under property law, does seeing, hunting and following an animal lend a greater interest in the chattel over one who kills and takes the chattel after it was first pursued by the hunter?

Holding: No. Although the Post saw the animal first and took several measures to have the animal in his sights, Pierson actually killed the animal and had the right to take the animal as his own chattel.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The narrow issue here is what amounts to occupancy in applying acquisition of a chattel. Early case law states pursuit alone vests no property or right in the huntsman, and that even pursuit accompanied with wounding is insufficient for possession. Defined, occupancy is the actual corporal (of, or relating to the body) possession of a chattel. But this possession has also been debated. But we do know pursuit by either early common law or by definition, is insufficient to have a claim of possession.

So we know pursuit is not enough, but the law is murky as to what is enough for possession, so as to trump all other claims to the chattel. What the court comes to decide is that if there were to be a policy where merely seeing the animal in the hunt and following the animal in the hunt, and even injuring the animal in the hunt were enough to claim possession, the courts would be cluttered with disputes to that effect. The court decides to draw a line at actual physical control of the chattel in order to claim possession

Rule: Pursuit alone vests no property or right in the huntsman, and that even pursuit accompanied with wounding is insufficient for possession.

Did court avoid issues?: No.

Dicta: This is a distinguishable case, as there is debate as to the term “occupancy.”

Manucaption means “actual bodily possession.”

Dissent: Property in animals ferae naturae (wild in nature) may be acquired without bodily touch or manucaption, provided the pursuer be in reach, or have a reasonable prospect of taking, what he has thus discovered with an intention of converting to his own use.

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