The executor plaintiffs were entitled to furniture which was sent to auction without their knowledge or consent. Some of the furniture was returned unsold to the would-be seller and no claim was made against the defendant auctioneer in respect of that furniture. But he was held liable for the furniture he sold.
Held: Where, as here, the auctioneer receives the goods into his custody, and, on selling them, hands over the goods to the purchasers with a view to passing the property in them, then I think the auctioneer has converted the goods and is liable accordingly. The general rule is that where an agent takes part in transferring the property in a chattel and it turns out that his principal has no title, his ignorance of this fact affords him no protection. Cases of a carrier and packing agent might support the case of the auctioneers. But carrier and packing agents are generally held not to have converted, because by their acts they merely purport to change the position of the goods and not the property in them.
 2 CH 172
England and Wales
Cited – Marcq v Christie, Manson and Woods Ltd CA 23-May-2003
The claimant’s stolen painting was put up for sale by the defendant. On being withdrawn, they returned it to the person who had brought it in. The claimant sought damages.
Held: There was no reported case in which a court has had to consider . .
Cited – Willis v British Car Auctions CA 1978
A car on hire purchase was sold and delivered by auctioneers on the instructions of the hirer. The main issue was whether the auctioneers’ liability was affected by the fact that the car had been sold under their provisional bid procedure.
Torts – Other, Agency
Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.182755