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Joseph Forster Weredu V. West Coast Company Limited & Ors (1955) LJR-WACA

Joseph Forster Weredu V. West Coast Company Limited (1955)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Tort—Trespass—Conversion—Goods seized by third party, not for defendant’s use—Defendant agreeing to buy the goods—Defendant’s mark put on goods—Defendant not taking possession, nor denying plaintiff’s right.

“A person who knowingly receives from another a chattel which the latter has wrongfully seized, and afterwards on demand refuses to give it back to the owner, does not thereby become a joint trespasser, unless the chattel was seized for his use Wilson v. Barker and Mitchell, 1833, 110 E.R. 587.

“It is clear that there can be no conversion by a mere bargain and sale without a transfer of possession ” (viz. of the goods of another): Fowler v. Hollins, L.R., 7 Q.B., p. 627, per Collins, J.

“Apart from mere dicta, no case, so far as I am aware, can be found where a man not in possession of the property has been held liable in trover unless he has absolutely denied the plaintiff’s right, although, if in possession of the property, any dealing with it, inconsistent with the owner’s right, would be a conversion ”: England v. Cowley, L.R. 8 Ex. 126, at 131, per Kelly, C.B.

The plaintiff (above appellant) sued claiming (inter alia) the value of logs and damages for trespass and conversion of the logs, alleging that the defendants had Stopped hifi tomes, cancelled Jus property mark on the logs, substituted their own property mark on them, and ” appropriated and converted the logs to their own use ”.

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The trial Judge found that the Stool (or State) within whose area the logs had been felled were, rightly or wrongly, determined to protect what was considered to be Stool property and they, and not the defendants, stopped the lorries and seized the logs. The Stool offered the logs to the second defendant, who agreed to buy them provided they were delivered at a certain port. The third defendant, an employee of the first defendant, put on the Company’s property mark.

When the plaintiff’s solicitor wrote to the second defendant to complain that the latter had seized his logs, the second defendant passed the letter to the Stool, who wrote to the solicitor that it was they who had appropriated the logs and agreed to sell them to the Company. The Company withdrew from the affair; they had not attempted to move the logs.

Held

(1) It was not the defendants (respondents) who seized the logs but a third party; nor did the third party seize them for the defendants’ use; therefore, the defendants were not liable in trespass.

(2) The mere fact that the second defendant agreed to buy the logs of which there had been no delivery to him, and of which he was, therefore, never in possession, did not of itself amount to conversion by him or his Company of the logs.

And putting the Company’s mark on the logs could not in the circumstances be said to be an appropriation and conversion of the logs to the Company’s use; it was apparently done only as a means of identifying the logs the second defendant had agreed to purchase: for the defendants had not attempted to move the logs, and, when the plaintiff’s solicitor wrote, they asserted no right but abandoned all interest in them.


Appeal dismissed.

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