Armory v Delamirie
(1722) 1 Strange 505, is a famous English case on
personal property law and
It is one of the first cases that
established possession as a valuable property right and as evidence
Armory was a chimney sweep's boy who found a jewel in the setting
of a ring. He took the jewel to the shop of Delamirie, a goldsmith,
to obtain a valuation of the item. An apprentice, the agent of
Delamirie, surreptitiously removed the gems from the setting on the
pretense of weighing it. The apprentice returned with the empty
setting and informed Armory that it was worth three halfpence. The
apprentice offered to pay him for it but Armory refused and asked
the apprentice to return the stones and setting in their prior
condition. The apprentice returned the socket of the jewel without
the gems. Armory brought an action against Delamirie in trover
for the actions of his apprentice).
The issue before the court was whether either party had any
property rights to the jewel.
The Court held that both Armory and Delamirie had property rights
in the jewel, even though neither was the true owner. Lord Pratt CJ
held they each have a right to
possession that is enforceable against everyone except those with a
greater right to the possession. The true owner of the jewel was
not relevant, the Court was only concerned with who had a
right to possession. The priority of rights to
possession say that a finder has better title to property that he
or she finds over everyone except the true owner, thus Armory had
full title to the jewel. The Court found in favour of Armory. Since
the jewel was not produced at the trial, Armory was awarded the
maximum value that a jewel of that form could have (under the
principle that a wrongdoer should not be able to derive gain, i.e.
uncertainty of damages, from the effects of his wrong-doing).
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