Consolidated Co v Curtis and Son: QBD 10 Nov 1891

An auctioneer who sold and delivered goods the subject of a bill of sale. An auctioneer who sells and delivers is liable in conversion because he is acting as more than a mere broker or intermediary.
Held: It is not easy to draw the line at the precise point where a dealing with goods by an intermediary becomes a conversion. The difficulty is diminished by remembering that in trover the original possession was by a fiction deemed to be lawful . . and some act had therefore to be shown constituting a conversion by the defendant of the chattel to his own use, some act incompatible with a recognition on his part of the continuous right of the true owner to the dominion over it. All acts which are consistent with the duty of a mere finder such as the safeguarding by warehousing or asportation for the like purpose, may well be looked upon as entirely compatible with the right of the true owner, and, therefore, as not constituting a conversion by the defendant. The test may be whether there is an intent to interfere in any manner with the title of or ownership in the chattel, not merely with the possession. The difficulty is rather in drawing the true inference from facts in particular cases than in grasping the principle. There can be no conversion by a mere bargain and sale without a transfer of possession. The act, unless in market overt, is merely void, and does not change the property or the possession: Lancashire Wagon Co. v Fitzhugh A fortiori, mere intervention as broker or intermediary in a sale by others is not a conversion.

Collins J
(1892) 1 QB 495, [1891] UKLawRpKQB 183
England and Wales
CitedHollins v Fowler HL 1875
One who deals with goods at the request of the person who has the actual custody of them, in the bona fide belief that the custodier is the true owner, or has the authority of the true owner, should be excused for what he does if the act is of such . .

Cited by:
CitedMarcq 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 On being withdrawn, they returned it to the person who had brought it in.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 . .
CitedWillis 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: 12 January 2022; Ref: scu.182756