Legalese (2009 Week 11)


Treasure – “any hidden and unknown deposit of money, jewelry or other precious metals, or other precious objects, the lawful ownership of which does not appear.” (Civil Code, art. 439)


ARTICLE 438. Hidden treasure belongs to the owner of the land, building, or other property on which it is found. Nevertheless, when the discovery is made on the property of another, or of the State or any of its subdivisions, and by chance, one-half thereof shall be allowed to the finder. If the finder is a trespasser, he shall not be entitled to any share of the treasure. If the things found be of interest to science or the arts, the State may acquire them at their just price, which shall be divided in conformity with the rule stated. (Civil Code)


A person who discovers treasure on the property of another, and by chance, is entitled to one-half of the treasure. However, if the person is a trespasser, e.g., he was not given permission to enter the property, he is not entitled to any share. A person cannot be allowed to benefit from his own unlawful act especially if there is a prohibition against his entry. [see Comments and Cases on Property [2007], p. 128]


Suppose under a tip that hidden treasure is buried in the land of X, Y leased the property and found previous objects after excavating the property. Is Y entitled to a share in the treasure? [Source: Comments and Cases on Property [2007], p. 128]