Torts relating to Movable Property 

Torts relating to Movable Property 

This article covers all those torts that are specifically related to Movable property

Introduction 

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:- 

  1. Trespass to Goods 
  2. Detinue 
  3. Conversion 

Trespass  

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. 

Detinue 

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:-

Defendant possessing the goods of Plaintiff 

  • 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 

Illustrations

  1. If I borrow a cycle from my friend for two days and  iam not returning it after the said time it amounts to  detinue 
  2. 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 

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.

Illustration

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.

Conclusion 

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

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