Below is the findings our legal team headed by Mr Gary Fitzgerald BL, clearly outlining the finder of lost property’s obligations.
The finder owes a duty of care to the original owner.
There are a number of important legal issues that need a little explanation. The law in this area is called the Law of Finders and all the text books make that point that there is some legal standing to the childhood rhyme, “Finders keepers, losers weepers”. The general rule is that the finder of an object gains property rights over that object as against everyone except the original owner. It is unclear as to the precise obligation on the finder. Some of the text books examine an English case, Parker v British Airways Board  1 QB 1004 to say that the finder has two obligations to the original owner:
- To take reasonable care of the goods; and
- To take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to reunite the original owner with the lost item.
If the finder does not do this then it may be that the original owner has a claim in conversion against the finder. Conversion is defined as intentionally interfering with the personal property of another. According to the leading Irish text book the law in this area is unclear and the only definitive statement by any of the authors on Parker is that there is an overwhelming conclusion that it is incorrect to put this obligation on the finder. The leading English text book on personal property states that there is a general obligation under the laws of negligence on the finder who owes a duty
of care to the original owner, with the standard of care reflecting the fact that the item was not paid for and the general circumstances of the case.
In any case We Return It Ltd is not the finder of the items, but a 3rd party engaged by the finder to store and return the item to the original owner. I am satisfied that the lost property partner, by engaging our client, has complied with its duty of care toward the original owner of the item. I am further satisfied that the terms and conditions as drafted between our client and the end user provide adequate legal protection should any owner seek to avoid paying the retrieval fee.
I cannot find any authority for how long our Client needs to keep the item and the best statement of the law is that the item must be kept for a reasonable period of time in all the circumstances of the case. In general I would think that 31 days is a reasonable period of time.
1 The Law of Personal Property by Bridge, Gullifer and McNeel at page 24.