Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lost: A Fire in the Jungle

Lost: The Incident
(aired May 13, 2009)

Ilana and Bram are walking through the woods. They spot their friend Jacob's cabin and go inside. There they discover that Jacob has been gone for some time but a squatter has been living in the house. To prevent the squatter from using the house, they set fire to the cabin. It burns to the ground.

Law: Arson is the malicious burning of the dwelling of another.

Issue: Did Ilana and Bram commit arson?

Analysis: Most likely. Unless they burned the house with Jacob's consent (and so far there's no evidence of that), then the burning was malicious. Now, the interesting question is who owns the cabin. Horace was killed during The Purge, and assuming he did not have a will, his son Ethan likely inherited the cabin (under the general rule of intestate inheritance). Ethan also died, presumably without an heir. The cabin would then revert (or "escheat") back to the government of the Island, which I'll assume is Jacob. Therefore, Jacob was the rightful owner of the cabin by the time Ilana and Bram showed up.

Alternatively, if Jacob occupied the cabin contrary to the true owner's wishes, then he could have become the rightful owner after a sufficient period of time passed ("adverse possession" for those playing along at home, or "squatter's rights" for the laity). Since the Purge happened in about 1992 and the burning occurred in 2007, Jacob would have had to adversely possess the cabin for 15 years. Most periods are from 12 to 15 years; therefore, the sufficient period likely lapsed by the time of this incident and Jacob was the owner of the cabin when it burned down.

But the owner of the cabin does not matter for arson purposes, so long as the person committing the arson is neither the owner of the property nor committed the arson with the consent of the true owner.

Bonus: As with all things Lost, we assume the common law applies.

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