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Rights of a Possessor

December 13, 2014

Rights of a Possessor

 

At common law, possessors of property who sought to recover possession from a subsequent possessor could bring a suit that alleged a trespass to land or a trespass to chattels. Another form of relief was a suit that alleged conversion. Adherence to the pleading technicalities was critical, but in each case, the possessor had to allege that he or she was the prior possessor. Remedies in these common law actions included the recovery of the items allegedly taken or the ejection of persons from the possessor's land. Money damages were not available. Currently, a possessor can sue a subsequent possessor to recover the item taken, to eject the subsequent possessor from the land, or to obtain money damages.

 

Double Liability

 

Because a possessor only holds property subject to the title of the true owner, a situation can arise that would subject the subsequent possessor to double liability. When both the possessor and the true owner sue the subsequent possessor, each could obtain awards of money damages against the subsequent possessor. In such a case, the subsequent possessor can interplead the possessor or the owner to bring all the interested parties before the court.

 

Measure of damages

 

There are two schools of thought regarding a possessor's entitlement to damages. One school holds that the possessor may only recover damages that correspond to the time of possession. The other school of thought holds that the possessor may be entitled to permanent damages. The outcome depends on the jurisdiction.

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