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.
Held: The auctioneers were liable. It is well established that if an auctioneer sells goods by knocking down with his hammer at an auction and thereafter delivers them to the purchaser – then although he is only an agent – then if the vendor has no title to the goods, both the auctioneer and the purchaser are liable in conversion to the true owner, no matter how innocent the auctioneer may have been in handling the goods or the purchaser in acquiring them.
References: [1978] 1 WLR 438
Judges: Denning LJ
Jurisdiction: England and Wales
This case cites:

  • Cited – Barker v Furlong 1891 ([1891] 2 CH 172)
    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 . .
  • Cited – Consolidated Co v Curtis and Son QBD 10-Nov-1891 ((1892) 1 QB 495, [1891] UKLawRpKQB 183, )
    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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 16 October 2020; Ref: scu.182757