Torts relating to Movable Property
This article covers all those torts that are specifically related to Movable property.
Torts leave a right of action for unliquidated damages to those who are affected by it. So wrong against a person is qualified to legal remedy. Then what about your properties , Is there any remedy if somebody throw a stone at your car or damage the tyre of your vehicles or if your pets are poisoned by some strangers. What do you think ,Is it a tort ?can you seek any protection from those injuries which seriously sometimes slightly affect your personal properties .The answer to all these questions is Yes. Law of torts are also capable of handling injuries against personal properties. What is the term ‘property’ means? Is there any static definition for this. No there is no stable definition for the term property . It changes with application and purpose of various acts. In general terms we can define it as a tangible or intangible asset that a person possess as theirs. It is divided in to two :-
- Movable property
- Immovable property
As per Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act ,1988 Section 2c defines property as “property of any kind ,whether movable or immovable, tangible or intangible, and includes any right of interest in such property. “
Movable property is all those properties except immovable properties .
Immovable properties under Transfer of property Act ,1882 includes all those properties that are permanently attached to the earth except standing timber and growing crops.
As this article concerned more about Movable property lets side kick the rest and get in to it.
Movable property in Torts
In the context of tort law, the scope of Movable property is wide. It not only includes Chattels or goods but also the other personal properties like pets. All those attached private holdings of a person including animals or birds or others are coming under the purview of tort law as Torts relating to Movable property and damages can be sought.
The main torts relating to the movable property includes the following:-
- Trespass to Goods
Trespass means the unlawuful or wrongful interference in to possession of other. In simply the entry to a person’s property without his consent or permission. Trespass mainly has three forms :-
- Trespass to Person
- Trespass to Land
- Trespass to Goods
All these trespasses are ‘actionable per se’ where no proof required to establish the liability.
Trespass to goods
Among these, trespass to goods are mainly considered as a tort relating to movable property.
Trespass to goods includes killing or beating of animals, throwing stones to vehicles, shooting birds, writing names or scratching on the seats of buses and trains, make an animal infectious of any disease ,chasing dogs of others, giving them poison etc are came under the area of trespass to goods.
Trespass to goods is against the right of possession of another person. If that person is the real owner or not does not make any sense in trespass to goods. The important criteria is that the right of possession should be infringed by the trespasser. Then injured party can claim damages.
How to assume trespass to goods
- Infringement to the right of possession of the plaintiff • Interference should be direct not consequential • Interference is unlawful or without justification
Defences to trespass of goods
- Rightful claim : Defendant can claim that the goods are not in the possession of the plaintiff at the time of trespass • Self -defence. : If the defendant trespass the property of the plaintiff in order to save his own possession. Then he can plead self- defence.
- Inevitable Accident
- Negligence or wrongful act of the plaintiff
- Legal authority
- Plaintiff can repossess the property by justifying the tort.
If the defendant deprived the right of possession of the plaintiff and unlawfully detained the possessions. And the same is not returned after demands. Then the plaintiff can file a suit for detinue. Detinue is an action against unlawful detention. To claim detinue the plaintiff must prove that:-
- Plaintiff is entitled to possession
- Detention is unlawful
- Plaintiff make demands for returning the goods but the defendant refused it
Detinue abolished in England by the Tort(Interference with Goods)Act,1977
- If I borrow a cycle from my friend for two days and iam not returning it after the said time it amounts to detinue
- To repair my car I leave it in workshop and after the needed days for the repairing the mechanic not returning my car .Then it is a unlawful detention of my possession which gives me a right of action for detinue.
In Ms Chokkalingam chettiar v state of karnataka, forest department of karnataka government purchased logs from the plaintiff and refused to pay for the goods for nine years. The court consider this as an unlawful detention of plaintiff’s possession by the officials.
Conversion normally means transform or change the usual behaviour of something in to another. In the scenario of law of torts ,Conversion means if the defendant detained the goods of the plaintiff and refuse to return it and in addition convert the natural behaviour of the goods. Such kind of tort to movable property is Conversion. This is also known as Trover.
1.If I leave my car in to a workshop for its break repairing and my car hasn’t returned after 3 weeks and the mechanic changed its glass and tyres and thereby completely modified my car( possession) Then it’s a tort of conversion
Remedies available to the plaintiff
- Recaption of the possession by reasonable force • Restoration of property
- Damages alone
- Both Restoration of property and damages
In Mohammad Mohsin khan v Turab Ali khan, Damages to goods are measured on the basis of market price while committing conversion. And in this case the court ordered to back the goods.
Torts to Movable property is a way one can claim compensation or any other civil forms of remedy for their injuries even though the tort has immensely connected to the law of crimes. Trespass to goods ,Detinue and Conversion being the determined torts relating to movable property, the remedy framed by the common law courts are satisfactory where the aggrieved party can claim a better remedy.
Author: AISWARYA M,
Government law college, Ernakulam