LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Detinue affects ownership – by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

Each person must know the rights vested in his real property, and likewise, his personal property. However, things are not always easy and rights over your goods (property) could be directly affected or minimized by an alien or a third party. The actions taken by a third party against your property, are classified in law as, conversion or detinue or trespass. Conversion, as explained earlier, is the wrong committed where someone converts to his own use or wrongly deprives you of the use and possession of your goods (property).

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Whereas, detinue represents the wrongful retention of the possession of goods. The wrong arises upon a detention of the chattel after demand has been made for its restoration by the person entitled to possession. A refusal on demand or some clear act of that kind is required to constitute a cause of action in detinue. A detention is evidence of conversion and in practice the wrongs tend to coalesce, but detinue is distinct from conversion in two respects. Detention, may apparently, take place without a denial of the plaintiff’s title, as we have mentioned for conversion. Secondly, detinue is the appropriate allegation where the plaintiff seeks return of his goods in specie. A plaintiff suing in detinue may claim an order for delivery of the chattel (though the power vested in the Court to make such an order is discretionary). And, to the entitlement to the assessment of damages to a successful plaintiff, and as to effect of a judgment for return of the chattel or its specified value. However, to note that, leave to issue execution for the value of the chattels to be granted after defendants failed to comply with the order for delivery. But if a plaintiff sues in conversion, or in both detinue and conversion, by so suing he gives the defendant the choice of paying the damages claimed for conversion in satisfaction of the whole claim.

The right to sue in detinue rests primarily on a right to immediate possession. However, we need to know what “right of property” in the goods is necessary. Knowing, the type of the adverse act taken against your property is very essential and helps you in taking the most appropriate legal action to enjoy the fruits of your ownership over your property. Knowledge opens your vision to protect your rights.

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