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 inspected.
  • There are four categories of found property:
    • Abandoned 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 Benjamin!)
    • Lost property
      • 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
      • 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.
    • Treasure trove
      • 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 property.