Wilson v Lombank Ltd

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Citation: Wilson v Lombank Ltd (1963) 1 All ER 740

This information can be found in the Textbook: Edgeworth et all, Sackville and Neave's Property Law Cases and Materials, 8th edition, Lexis Nexis, 2008, pp. 121-3 [2.29]

Contents

Background facts

  • The Plaintiff [Wilson] bought a car from someone (Davis) who had no title to sell.
  • The Plaintiff took the car to Haven Garage for repair (a bailment). When repair was complete and the car was standing in the forecourt (note, the Plaintiff had several dealings with the garage).
  • The Defendant [Lombank, by a representative called Richards] saw the car and tried to take it (thinking it belonged to the Defendant). After the Defendant accepted to bear all responsibility, Haven Garage [by rep called Ffrench] handed over the car.
  • Soon enough, it was found that neither Davis nor the Plaintiff nor the Defendant had title to the car – the true owners were called Mercantile Credit.
  • The Defendants returned the car to Mercantile Credit when they found out.
  • The Plaintiff sued in trespass.

Arguments

  • The plaintiff argued that:
    1. He was in possession of the car. The Defendants had no right to take it away. Thus, the Defendants have no right to say true title rests in Mercantile.
    2. Possession is title. Where the bailor can at any moment demand return of the object bailed (as was the case here), he still has possession.
    3. There was no lien[1] between the Plaintiff and Garage. The repairs were complete and the car was at the forecourt awaiting collection.
  • The Defendant argued that:
    1. The Plaintiff did not have actual possession nor constructive possession as the car was at Haven Garage for repairs. Neither did the plaintiff have immediate right to possession as (they submit) this only exists in cases of gratuitous bailment.
    2. As the car was submitted for repair, the garage had a lien over it. The Plaintiff could thus not have immediate right to possession.
    3. Even if the Plaintiff had an immediate right to possession, their claim is defeated as the Defendants re-delivered the car back to the true owners.
    4. Insofar as the Plaintiff relies on their title, it is defeated by jus tertii. It is agreed that at the time the true owner was Mercantile Credit.

Legal issues

  • Personal property - Trespass
    • Main issue - did the Plaintiff have any sort of possession which would entitle him to sue in trespass?

Judgement

  • Having regard to the course of dealing between the Plaintiff and the garage, the garage did not have a lien on it.
  • Usually, the Plaintiff would only have the right to immediate possession once he paid for the repairs. Here, the credit situation that he had with the garage (through their previous dealings) means that he doesn't need to pay to pick up his car.
  • The Plaintiff therefore had an immediate right to possession, allowing him to pick it up at any time.
  • Quoting USA & France v Dollfus[2] The right to immediate possession can be seen as actual possession - he had never lost possession.
    • In other words, not only did he have an immediate right to possession, he had actual possession.
  • Since the Plaintiff was in possession of the car his claim was not defeated by the fact that the Defendants had subsequently returned it to the true owner. The Defendant was a wrongdoer by taking the car, and the existence of a third party with superior rights is irrelevant.
  • The Plaintiff wins in trespass, the Defendants liable for the full value together with the cost of the repairs.

References

  1. The right to hold the property of another as security for the performance of an obligation or the payment of a debt: Hall v Richards (1961) 108 CLR 84.
  2. [1952] 1 All ER 572
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