[Torts] Answer Guide for Trespass to Chattels (Goods)
Trespass to chattels
1. Trespass to goods is the direct and intentional interference with another’s possession of goods.
a. Intentional and direct (Hutchins v Maughan)
b. Interference with a person’s use or possession of a good (Penfolds Wines v Elliott)
c. It is either
ii) Taking of goods
iii) Handling of goods without consent
iv) Unauthorised use of chattels
2. To succeed in an action for trespass to goods the plaintiff must be able to show that he/she was in possession of the goods at the time of the act of interference by the defendant (Penfolds Wines v Elliott). The requisite here is actual or constructive possession or immediate right to possession.
a. A person is said to have constructive possession where they have control over chattels.
b. Actual possession- immediate and direct control over property
c. Constructive possession- having the power and intention to have and control property but without direct control or actual presence upon it
d. Immediate possession- right to possession even when the owner is not present (Penfolds, Armory v Delamirie)
3. The interference, as any other trespass, must be direct (Hutchias v Maughan). *As with trespass to the person and land, any act that sets in motion an unbroken series of continuing consequences, the last of which ultimately causes contact with the goods of the plaintiff, will be regarded as sufficiently direct (Scott v Shepherd; Hutchins v Maughan)).
4. According to Latham CJ in Penfolds Wines v Elliott, the interference must satisfy that they are
a. The mere taking or asportation
b. The handling without authority
c. The unauthorised use of chattels
5. Defences and remedies*
1. An action in conversion takes place when a person deals with goods in a way that expressly or impliedly denies the others right to possession.
b. Repugnant dealing with the goods
2. The plaintiff must have had either an actual or constructive possession of the goods (Penfolds Wines v Elliott) or the immediate right to possession (Armory v Delamirie) of the goods at the time of the conversion.
a. Bailment: A bailee of goods, as one who usually has actual possession of the goods, has a sufficient interest to sue in conversion.
3. The conduct or ‘dealings’ regarding the chattels must be
a. Disposing of goods (Holland’s case)
b. Taking possession of goods (Heeling Sales)
c. Abusing possession of goods (Penfolds v Elliott)
d. Transferring of possession (Glass v Hollander)
e. Withholding of goods (Flow Fill Packaging)
f. Denial of plaintiff’s rights (Oakley v Lyster)
4. Defences and remedies*
1. The tort of detinue is committed by being in possession of goods after a proper demand has been made for their return by the person who has an immediate right to their possession.
a. Wrongful detention
b. Refusal to return
2. To bring an action in detinue, P must have an immediate right to possession of the goods detained.
3. There are three requirements to establish detinue: possession, demand and refusal (Wade Sawmill v Colenden).
4. Defences and remedies*
1. Necessity: The defence of necessity may be available if interference with the goods was reasonably necessary to protect goods or persons from the threat of real and imminent harm.
3. Lawful authority
1. Recaption of chattels: recaption of chattels allows a person who has been deprived of the possession of goods to recover those goods immediately and without recourse to legal action.
a. A person in actual possession of goods who loses possession of those goods as a result of trespass can regain possession of those goods by the use of reasonable force.
2. Damages is the primary remedy for a trespass to goods and conversion; their value will be in accordance to the market value, repairing fee, and loss from not owning the chattel.