Hollins 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 a nature as would be excused if done by the authority of the person in possession if he was a finder of the goods or intrusted with their custody. Thus a warehouseman with whom goods had been deposited is guilty of no conversion by keeping them or restoring them to the person who deposited them with him, though that person turns out to have had no authority from the true owner. The same principle applies to persons ‘acting in a subsidiary character, like that of a person who has the goods of a person employing him to carry them, or a caretaker, such as a wharfinger’. Blackburn J (Advising the House): ‘If, as is quite possible, the changes in the course of business since the principles of law were established make them cause great hardships or inconvenience, it is the province of the Legislature to alter the law.’

Blackburn J, Brett J
(1875) LR 7 HL 757
England and Wales
Appeal fromFowler v Hollins 1872
The plaintiff claimed in conversion of bales of cotton bought in good faith through a broker in Liverpool.
Held: The purchasers were strictly liable.
Cleasby J said: ‘the liability under it is founded upon what has been regarded as a . .

Cited by:
CitedMarcq v Christe Manson and Woods (t/a Christies) QBD 29-Oct-2002
The claimant sought damages for conversion from the respondent auctioneers as bailees. The painting had been registered as stolen. It failed to achieve its reserve and had been returned.
Held: It was for a bailee to prove that he had acted in . .
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 On being withdrawn, they returned it to the person who had brought it in.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 . .
CitedConsolidated 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 . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others; similar HL 2-May-2007
In Douglas, the claimants said that the defendants had interfered with their contract to provide exclusive photographs of their wedding to a competing magazine, by arranging for a third party to infiltrate and take and sell unauthorised photographs. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Agency

Updated: 08 January 2022; Ref: scu.182751