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Private Law Essay On Torts Concerning Goods


Principles of private law essay question:
The law with respect to torts for the protection of goods is confusing. In some situations, an owner who is out of possession is unable to obtain a remedy for interference with goods that they own. In other situations, a non-owner who is in possession is able to recover the full value of goods that they do not own. Can such laws be justified? Explain your answer and, where appropriate, refer to cases to support your argument.


The aim of this private law essay is to justify whether the law with respect to torts for the protection of goods is confusing. Any type of wrongful interference that is possession of a property that is a type of personal property is known as trespass to property and an action can be taken against the same to recover damages. The same is also applicable to the trespass of goods if there is any direct interference in the goods that is in possession of the claimant. The goods that are so in possession whether that is either by taking the goods or by damaging the goods shall constitute to trespass. If any person wrongly interferes with the property then the other person who has so wrongly interfered shall be held responsible for breaching the tort of goods. However, sometimes the application of the given law seems to be misguiding and confusing as in some situations, an owner who is not actually in possession does not get authority over the goods and some other person who is not the owner however has possession gets complete authority of the goods1 . Thus, the law of torts over goods is very vague and extreme and that is why the application of the same becomes troubling.

The law of trespass to chattels or goods is the law in which there is trespass to personal property or to the goods and is defined as intentional interference of the possession of the goods of some other person. In some of the jurisdictions, the trespass to chattels is a codified law and it mentions the scope of the remedy in most of the jurisdictions. Thus, the application of the law of chattels remains a subject of special jurisdiction. In the United Kingdom, the law relating to trespass to goods is governed by the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, and it contains clear rules as to what shall constitute trespass of goods. Physical interference is said to be done when someone takes over the goods of some other person or destroys the goods2. The destruction can be minor as even touching them or moving them in the right manner. On the other hand, possession means when the claimant has the right to use, deal and control any of the items or good. The same include bales or owners.

It is however completely unknown as to what mental condition is needed or can be applied when the trespass to goods is applied. For example, in the trespass of person, intent is needed even if there is any harm or not so, in the present case no mental condition is a prerequisite to make a person liable for trespass. The most common remedy in case of trespass of goods is damages and it can be awarded anytime3.

The law relating to trespass is governed by the Trespass to Goods Act, 1977 and it came into effect in 22nd July, 1977. The aim of the Act was to make the remedies available to the claimants who have sued the defendants for obtaining damages from them. In the case of trespass of goods, the claimants have limited interest in the goods and the same could normally obtain all the value from the third party. If the claimant has a limited interest in the goods then he or she can recover the full amount from the third party. As per the Act of 1977, the court and the claimant has to find and identify any other person whom he or she knows to have some kind interest in the goods and such a person having interest should join as a party. The damages, therefore, such be divided based on the interested parties depending on the interests they have4.

The claimant who has the power to be compensated shall be done so in the extent of the value of the goods which he has been deprived of. This will also be done based on the market value of the goods. When the goods are of such a nature that it can be easily bought in the actual market then such a value will be taken into consideration, or else the replacement value shall be taken into account. This was decided in the case of JE Hall v. Barcla5y. It simply means that the person whose property has been converted has been given the right to damages for the conversion that is measured by the value of the property at the time of conversion. Firstly, the quantity of the recovery shall not be similar. If the claim is for a tort wrong then the plaintiff can make claims for the loss so suffered because of the wrong done by the defendant. If this is not the case, then the only thing that can be recovered is the expenses that should avoid the tort. The second thing that shall become applicable here is misclassification of the claim that is based on the tort and it largely depends on the economic loss so suffered6.

The act of 1977 provides for the basic remedies for all the types of wrongful interferences that are done with the goods. In the case of White v. Morris7, it was held that when the goods have been given as a security for a loan on the trust to allow the assignor to remain in ownership until the default so made is repaid then the assignee can sue in trespass while the goods are still under the possession of the assignor.

Conclusively, it can be said that the trespass to goods clearly states that it is interference with the possession of the property and goods however the law should make clear distinction regarding the person who have possession and are not owners and those who are owners but not in possession of their goods. In such an ambiguous situation, the law should be clear, just and understandable.

Blue, Ronald, et al. "Legal Principles of Tort-Fall 2020." (2020).

Dua, Sanmeet Kaur, and Chris Turner. Unlocking Torts. Routledge, 2019.

Field, Iain D. "The Problem with Provocation in Trespass." The Modern Law Review (2020).

Kubica, Maria Lubomira. "Legal Doctrine on Rylands v. Fletcher: One more time on Feasibility of a General Clause of Strict Liability in the UK." International Journal of Law and Political Sciences 10.10 (2017): 3542-3550.

Leyland, Peter. The constitution of the United Kingdom: A contextual analysis. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Oliva, Javier García, and Helen Hall. "Trespass to the Person, Human Rights and Ethically Contaminated Food: Freedom of Belief and Bodily Autonomy." Journal of European Tort Law 10.1 (2019): 27-62.

Weinberg, Merlinda. "Paradox and trespass: Possibilities for ethical practice in times of austerity." Ethics and Social Welfare 12.1 (2018): 5-19.


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