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Pierson v Post (1805), 3 Cai R 175, 2 Am Dec 264 (NY) (Link)

Facts:

Post (P) was out fox hunting and came across a fox, which he started to pursue. Pierson (D) knew Post was pursuing the fox, but ended up killing and capturing the fox himself. P brought an action against D, arguing that he had legal possession of the fox when he started hunting it. D claimed that P did not have control over the fox and therefore did not acquire any property interest in it.

At trial, the court held in favour of P. D appealed.

Issue(s):

Does the mere pursuit of a wild animal constitute possession of that animal?

Ratio:

Possession requires that a person have sufficient control over the object. Control does not necessarily mean "complete dominion." Rather, control is subject to the particular context and type of property:
** Mere pursuit of an wild animal does not constitute a legal right to it.
** To acquire possession, the person must mortally wound the animal.

Analysis:

** Pursuit of a wild animal does not meet the requirement for possession.
** Mere wounding of a wild animal does not meet the requirement for possession.
** The animal must be mortally wounded so as to deprive the animal of its natural liberty.; i.e. one must capture and kill the animal to acquire legal possession.

Holding:

Appeal allowed in favour of Pierson.


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