Courts: Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers

In 1988 the Columbus America Discovery Group made two major discoveries. First, 1 1/2 miles down in the Atlantic, 160 miles off South Carolina, it located the S.S. Central America, a side-wheel steamer that sank 133 years ago with as much as 6 tons of gold on board. Second, the Ohio outfit found out that a big gold find attracts treasure lovers who do their hunting in court. A numerous rabble of litigants lurched into federal court to grab whatever they could of the estimated $1 billion treasure.

Insurance firms claimed part of the loot because they had paid claims on...