Hurley v. City of Niagara Falls, New York Case Brief

Summary of Hurley (P) v. City of Niagara Falls, New York, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department (1968) & Court of Appeals of the state of New York (1969)


P was working as an independent contractor for the Moracas and when attempting to remove a piece of pipe found $4990. They discussed the money and agreed that it should be given to the authorities. After the discussion, P left with the money under that pretense, but never turned it over. He was detained when he attempted to spend the money some time later. The Moracas are attempting to reclaim the money on the grounds that it was found on their property.


Who is legally entitled to the money?


P, as finder of the money has the right to it.

General Rule:

The finder of mislaid property on premises of another acquires no special property in it and that eh right of possession as against all except the true owners is in the owner or occupant of the premises where the property is discovered.


Treasure trove, which by modern definition includes paper money and not only buried treasure but money hidden in places above the ground belongs to the finder and not the owner of the locus.


P, as the person who first took possession of the money, was the finder thereof.



Dissent (From the higher court):

P’s failure to comply with the statutory provisions precludes him from asserting any rights under the statue which he has flagrantly disregarded. In a real sense, the majority is permitting a person who intentionally violates the criminal law to profit by his own wrong. This is manifestly repugnant to basic concepts of justice and common sense.

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