Good Day, My question is about the law r...

Asked by Danielb on 10-11-2014 17:08:36
Question posted in the General Law category relating to Western Cape

Good Day,
My question is about the law regarding gifts. My son (19) received a gift of a box within which were various coins and notes. The person had known Kyle many years and offered the box of coins as a gift. One year later the person contacted him to say he had made an error and in fact the coins belonged to another person, demanding the return of the said items. My Son returned the majority which were still in the box in good faith without prejudice, he had sold some during the course of the year to cover some of his Varsity exspenses and told the person as such. Value approx R12K

There is no record of what was in the box, the person is now threatening to sue my son unless he gets the coins sold back and is also claiming items that were not in the original box given.

What are my Sons rights in this case.


Answer to the Question

Posted by Att. Patrick on 10-11-2014 17:53:11
Hi there and thank you for your question,

Essentially the facts of your question are: can this third party claim the goods (box within which were various coins and notes) back from your son after having validly donated the goods to your son - and what in the case where that third party was not the owner of the goods originally? Can the true owner of the coins claim them back?

A donation is deemed to take effect on the date upon which the goods are delivered to the other party. The essential characteristic of a contract of donation is the creation of the obligation to transfer or deliver the property donated. It appears that a donation did take place.

It is quite clear in your instance is that the person who donated the goods to your son was acting under a simple mistake. i.e. that the person believed that he was the owner, and in good faith asserted that he was the owner, and donated the goods to your son, when in fact he was not the owner of the goods. Your son, also acting in good faith, accepted the donation of the goods.

The problem for your son is that the person who donated the goods to your son could NOT transfer ownership in the goods to your son, because he himself was not the true owner of the goods. This third party could only transfer possession of the coins... not ownership.

This means that the true owner retains his legal claim (his real rights) to the goods against any person in the world who presently possesses the goods. i.e. The true owner can sue (or demand) the return of the goods from your son.  The third party (the man in the middle) does not have such a claim - only the true owner has.

Therefore, you should tell this person that he has no legal claim to the return of the goods, and that he should put you in touch with the true owner. Then, speak directly to the true owner and explain that your son was an innoccent pawn in this mistake, and has sold some of the coins that he thought that he was the true owner of. Accordingly, your son will return whatever coins he still has, but unfortunately can't return the balance of the coins.

The true owner would (legally speaking) be able to sue your son for the value of the coins ... which is your problem.

So, your son can be sued for the value of the coins, but only by the true owner, not by this third party.

In relation to the coins that were "allegedly" in the box ... it will be up to the true owner to PROVE to the satisfaction of the court which coins are missing, and also that your son sold them.  The true owners problem is that the box didn't go straight to your son, but rather first to this other person - which means that this other person could have removed some coins before donating the balance to your son!

If there is a part of the answer which you need more advice on, or clarity please continue in this same thread instead of opening a new question.

Att. Patrick

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