In Property, one of the first topics we cover is acquisition by finding stuff. A number of the cases tease out the vagaries of what happens if an object is mislaid, abandoned, buried in the ground, and then discovered. One case is South Staffordshire Water Co v. Sharman (Queen’s Bench 1896). In short, the owner of property asked someone to clean out a pool of water. The cleaner found two rings stuck in the mud at the bottom of the pool. So who owns it? The person who finds it, or the person who owns the land? The court found that the owner of the land in question (“locus in quo”) gets the rings. “The possession of land entitles possession of everything attached to land, in absence of better title.” This is true if the land owner isn’t even aware of the items existence.
Now, we have an almost perfect analog to this case. An 84-year old woman, who lost her 1953 university class ring, six decades ago. And remarkably, it wound up in a dry lack in Lubbock!
Elizabeth Clark lost her Howard Payne University class ring in 1954 in Lake Nasworthy near San Angelo when she and her future husband went for a picnic and to wade into the water.
After years of drought, the ring revealed itself in the bed of the lake and was found by a Texas woman in March.
Clark’s daughter says the ring means the world to her mother because she worked so hard to become the lone child out of 16 to finish college.
The ring will be returned to Clark at a family reunion Friday near Lubbock.
Now, in this case, the true owner was ascertained, so it could be returned to her. But otherwise, the finder, or the property owner, could also assert title.