In 1990, Scientific Search Associates, a group of salvors searching for Spanish galleons, located the wreck of a Navy Devastator TBD-1 torpedo bomber (Opinion 1). The TBD was historically significant, as it was the only bomber of its kind to survive the war. In order for the court to determine the rightful owner of the plane, it first had to determine whether the bomber was misplaced, lost, or abandoned. Once the status of the plane was determined, it led to speculations on the reason for the difference in property ownership laws, as well as the rights of individuals or organizations in the recovery of federal property.
According to the United States Supreme Court, there are three distinct types of personal property that can be found by others. These types include misplaced, lost, and abandoned property. Property is mislaid when its owner voluntarily places the property somewhere and then inadvertently forgets it (Cheeseman, 2006).
Property is considered to be lost when a property owner leaves property somewhere because of negligence, carelessness, or inadvertence (Cheeseman, 2006). Abandoned property has been discarded by the owner with the intent to relinquish his or her rights in it and mislaid or lost property that the owner has given up further attempts to locate (Cheeseman, 2006). If the Navy TBD-1 Devastator was not federal property, the fact that there was no indication that any efforts were made to locate the plane would qualify the Navys actions as abandonment (Finders, 2000). Any and all attempts to retrieve the property were ended long before the plane was found by the research team.
Doug Champlin invested $130,000 into salvaging the abandoned Navy Torpedo Bomber (TBD). He did so after receiving a letter from the Navy in February of 1991 that stated that there was no intention to compensate him...