This case dealt with whether a Miss Paula Campbell (the “Claimant”) had a claim in damages against Redstone Mortgages Ltd (the “Defendant”), in respect of chattels which the Claimant left at her property, prior to the Defendants execution of a warrant of possession.
The Defendant (as mortgagee) enforced an order of possession against the Claimant’s property. Upon the Defendant being granted possession, the Claimant was required to remove her goods and the Court ordered the Defendant to allow the Claimant access to the property to do this on three separate occasions. On the final occasion, the Claimant barricaded herself within the property and did not remove her items. The Defendant therefore began disposing of the Claimant’s goods, although they were temporarily stopped from doing this when an interim injunction was granted. However, this injunction was discharged and the Defendant continued to dispose of the goods. The Claimant then brought proceedings against the Defendant for damages in relation to the sale of these goods. A preliminary issue then arose during the proceedings, as to whether the Defendant was liable in damages as the bailee of the Claimant’s items and therefore being responsible for them.
Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, which included the mortgage conditions, the warnings provided by the Defendant to the Claimant of the intended disposal of the goods and the Court order allowing the Claimant access to collect the goods, the Court had to determine whether the Defendant had been right and reasonable in its disposal of the chattels belonging to the Claimant.
In coming to its decision the Court noted that the Claimant’s actions of not clearing the property of her goods were in contravention of the order of possession and resulted in the Defendant becoming an involuntary bailee of the goods. As an involuntary bailee, the Defendant therefore had to do what was right and reasonable. The Court felt that the Claimant had sought to undermine the order of possession by not removing her items and thus subsequently sought to prevent a sale of the property by the Defendant. Furthermore, the Court felt that the Claimant was acting deliberately in leaving the items at the property and this was designed to prevent the Defendant from obtaining vacant possession. Finally, the Court noted that the Claimant could have removed her items on three separate occasions pursuant to the Court orders allowing her to do this and she chose not to do so.
The Court therefore decided that the Defendant had been entirely justified to dispose of the Claimant’s goods and that the Defendant’s conduct had been completely right and reasonable in the circumstances. The Defendant therefore had no liability in damages to the Claimant.
It is clear from this case that should a lender find itself in the positon of involuntary bailee of a borrower’s goods, their duty to do what is right and reasonable in all the circumstances may extend to disposal of the goods.