Owners of goods are entitled to enjoy their possession and control and their use without any interference. To protect goods the common law developed 3 torts namely;
• Trespass to goods
This is the unlawful detention of goods. It is the oldest tort relating to the protection of the chattels and protects possession of goods by the owner. The plaintiff must prove:-
i. Right to immediate possession
ii. That the defendant detained the goods after the plaintiff demanded their return. The plaintiff is entitled to damages for the detention.
TRESPASS TO GOODS
This is the intentional or negligent interference of goods in possession of the plaintiff. This tort protects a party interest in goods with regard to retention their physical condition and invariability.
TYPES/FORMS OF TRESPASS
1. Taking a chattel out of the possession of another
2. Moving a chattel
3. Contact with a chattel
4. Directing a missile to a chattel
RULES/REQUIREMENTS OF THE TORT
1. The trespass must be direct
2. The plaintiff must be in possession of the chattel at the time of interference
3. The tort is actionable per se
4. The principal remedy is a monetary award in damages
The defenses available to this tort include:-
1. Plaintiff‟s consent
This is the intentional dealing with goods which is seriously inconsistent to possession or right to possession of another person. This tort protects a person‟s interest in dominion or control of goods.
The plaintiff must have possession or the right to immediate possession. However, a bailee of goods can sue 3rd parties in conversion so can a licensee or a holder of a lien or a finder. Any good or chattel can be the subject matter of conversion. There must be physical contact resulting in interference with the goods.
ACTS OF CONVERSION
i. Taking goods or disposing; it has been observed that to take a chattel out by another’s possession is to convert it or seize goods under a legal process without justification is conversion.
ii. Destroy or altering
iii. Using a person’s goods without consent is to convert them
iv. Receiving: the voluntary receipt of another’s goods without consent is conversion.
However, receiving of another’s goods in certain circumstances is not actionable for example goods received;-
i. In a market overt; the purchaser acquires a good title
ii. Estoppel; if the true owner of the goods is by his conduct denying the sellers the right to sell, the buyer acquires a good title to the goods
iii. Goods received from a factor or a mercantile agent
iv. A negotiable instrument received in good faith
v. Goods received from a person who has a voidable title before the title is avoided
vi. Dispositon without delivery – a person who sells another goods without authority but without delivering them to the buyer converts them
vii. Disposition and delivery – A person who sells another’s goods without authority and delivers the same to the buyer is guilty of conversion
viii. Mis-delivery of goods a carrier or a warehouse man who delivers the goods to the wrong person by mistake is guilty of conversion
ix. Refusal to surrender another’s goods on demand
The principal remedy available is a monetary award in damages and the plaintiff is entitled to the value of the goods he has been deprived. The value s determined as per the date of conversion.
If the plaintiff suffers a pecuniary loss as per the result of the conversion he is entitled to special damages.