I got into a discussion about finder's law yesterday. I live in Canada, so that's the law we were looking at, but I'd be interested in law from any jurisdiction. Most of our discussion was based on this page: What is Finders Law?, and this one: All is not lost: the law of lost and found.
During our discussion, someone proposed this hypothetical:
- Alice loses something of value, let's say a necklace.
- Bob finds the necklace. He puts up FOUND posters, makes phone calls, and generally does his due diligence in searching for the original owner.
- After a week, Bob is convinced that the original owner isn't showing up, and with no desire to keep the necklace for himself, sells it to Charlie for a fair price.
- After Charlie buys the necklace from Bob, Alice shows up, sees the necklace, and asks for it back. Let's assume that she has proof that it was originally hers.
- Does she get it back? Who pays?
Under the law as we understand it, Alice, as the original owner, has the superior claim to the necklace no matter what. However, Charlie paid for the thing, and he's not the finder. Bob can't give it back, because he doesn't have it anymore. What is the legal situation here?