TORT 1.8 THE TORT OF DETINUE
- The unlawful detention of chattel of another person who has a right of immediate possession to it.
- Refusal to return it upon demand by the owner who is in immediate possession of the property.
The Interference Of Goods Act UK now merges detinue with conversion. In Nigeria, it still exists as a separate tort.
In a detinue action therefore, the plaintiff is suing for specific return of his goods (or the value of his goods if it has been disposed/destroyed already). See Ogiugo and Sons ltd v. Cop, Davies V. Lagos City Council, Koshile V. Folarin, In this case, the defendant who sold the motor vehicle to the plaintiff on credit seized and refused to return when the plaintiff had not fully paid. The Supreme Court held that there was detinue. The Supreme Court emphasized that a demand is very important and the defendant must have refused to return the property.
In WAEC v. Karoye, the plaintiff sat for an exam conducted by the defendant council. The council refused to release his certificate. The claim for detinue was upheld by the Supreme Court. See Shuwa V. Chad Basin Development Authority. Also Cop v. Oguntayo where the appellants sued the defendants for detaining his Mitsubishi vehicle and refusal to return it after a demand. The case of Stitch v. AG Federation where the plaintiff imported a car from overseas. It was impounded by the board of customs and excise at the port. The custom then sold it to the fourth defendant. The plaintiff sued the defendant to return his car. It was held that there was detinue. The court awarded the monetary value of the car.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CONVERSION AND DETINUE.
- The refusal to surrender the chattel after demand, is the essence of detinue. In conversion, there need not be demand.
See Agbai v. Okagbue and the cases above.