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  • New
  • 1961-04-07
  • GLR 190-191
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Contract?-Parties not ad idem?-Whether parties have any claims thereunder.Tort?-Detinue.


The plaintiffs invited the defendant, a fitter mechanic, to their premises to examine a truck needing repairs, and to give them an estimate of the cost of repair. After examaination the defendant estimated that the repairs would cost G45. He then wrote down a list of some spare parts amounting to G21 11s. To him this list was not exhaustive. It comprised only those spares which he thought he would immediately require to commence the repairs and expected to call upon the plaintiffs from time to time for more money to purchase more spare parts as the work progressed. He did not, however, communicate this to the plaintiffs, believing that the plaintiffs appreciated the position. The plaintiffs paid the G21 11s. to the defendant. It was agreed that the repairs should be completed within ten days. The vehicle was then driven to the defendant's garage and repairs began. About four days later the defendant was obliged to stop work on the vehicle because his landlord would not let him continue to have his workshop where it was. It took defendant about four months to secure another plot, re-establish his workshop and resume repairs on the vehicle. He approached the plaintiffs for more money to purchase more spare parts. The plaintiffs refused, on the grounds that they understood the figures given them earlier to mean that the G21 11s. was sufficient to buy all the spare parts necessary for the repairs, and the 45 was for the defendant's workmanship, to be paid after completion of the work. The defendant refused to continue the repairs unless the plaintiffs [p.191] paid him a further advance to purchase the spares. The plaintiffs instituted the instant action claiming damages for an alleged wrongful detention of their vehicle.


ACTION for damages for wrongful detention of a motor vehicle

[His lordship referred to the facts as stated in the headnote supra and continued:] It is quite clear to me that the minds of the parties were not ad idem as to what the estimated cost of 45 included. There is therefore no binding contract between the parties. It is not surprising therefore that the plaintiffs' claim is laid in detinue and not in breach of contract.

To succeed on a claim in detinue the plaintiff must prove that the possession of the chattel by the defendant is wrongful, that a proper demand has been made for its return and the defendant has refused to return it.

In this case the defendant came into possession of the vehicle lawfully. If there had been a demand for its return the continued possession would, as from the date of refusal to return it, be unlawful. But there is no evidence of demand as required by law to determine the original lawful possession so as to make the defendant's continued possession wrongful. The defendant's possession never at any time material to the case became unlawful. The claim in detinue must therefore fail.

But the matter does not rest there. The court being seized of all the facts is bound to do justice between the parties and make such order as the law would warrant in the circumstances. There being no enforceable contract between the parties, their minds not being ad idem, each must be restored to as nearly the same position as he was in immediately prior to the conclusion of their abortive agreement; that is to say, the plaintiffs must have back their vehicle in the same or nearly the same condition that it was, or in as reasonable condition as the intervening circumstances warrant, i.e. with the spare parts purchased with their money fitted to it, or delivered separately with it; and the defendant too must be paid remuneration on quantum meruit basis for the work he did on the vehicle.

In the circumstances the parties would have to agree upon the date of delivery of the vehicle and the amount to be paid to the defendant as his workmanship fees, to be made an order of the court.


<P>Case remitted for settlement along the lines indicated</P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

A.G. Heward Mills

Defendant / Respondent

Defendant in person.


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