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Columbus-America Discovery Group v. Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
974 F.2d 450 (1993)


Facts

On September 12, 1857, the S.S. Central America, a ship that was carrying a significant amount of gold, sank in a hurricane. The wreck was not located until 1988, when the wreck was found by the Columbus-America Discovery Group (Columbus-America) (plaintiff). Columbus-America recovered the gold, and in 1992, Columbus-America moved in federal district court to have itself declared the owner of the treasure. Columbus-America’s motion was opposed by a group of insurers (defendants), including Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company (Atlantic Mutual) (defendant), which had originally underwritten the gold. However, the defendants’ documentation relating to the gold could not be found. The district court awarded Columbus-America the gold in its entirety, finding that the underwriters had affirmatively abandoned their ownership interests in the gold by deliberately destroying documentation relating to the gold. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Russell, J.)

Dissent (Widener, J.)

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