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Disposal of goods at Garages

Filed under: Special Comments |

By Dickson Jere

A Mitsubishi truck, belonging to a cooperative, was taken in for repairs at the garage. They had a verbal agreement with the garage on what needed to be fixed on the truck. After the works were done, a bill of K88,380 was rendered, which included purchase of spare parts and labour. But the bill was disputed and disagreement arose.

The garage, in trying to recover its payment, retained the truck as a lien for payment. However, it appears the garage started using the truck – even branded it – without authority from the owners. This triggered the owners to sue the garage for, among other things, return of the truck and damages for loss of use of the motor vehicle.

In the High Court, the Judge ruled that the garage was entitled to its payment for the repairs and threw out the case of the owners of the truck. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court, the owners of the truck appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Having analyzed the record of the case, the Court of Appeal reversed the lower court decision and ruled in favour of the owners of the truck.

“During this period, there is no dispute that the Respondent (garage) was using the vehicle to its benefit in breach of its obligations as Bailee,” the panel of three Judges observed.

“It cannot therefore sustain a claim for vehicle repair charges in that regard,” the Court further ruled in favour of the vehicle owners, adding that the use of the vehicle was illegal.

The Court guided that the garage should have used the provisions of The Disposal of Uncollected Goods Act, which authorize the disposal of goods held in the course of business under bailment for repair and not using the truck for its benefits without authority from owners.

“The Respondent (garage) can therefore not escape the responsibility of bearing the risk of such unauthorized use of the truck,” the Court of Appeal said.

“If he does anything with the chattel not authorized to do so by the bailor, he bears the risks of his actions,” the a Court further said in reference to the decision of the garage to use the vehicle in its possession.

This is an important case for those involved in running garages, repair shops and businesses where they retain goods from the customers. The Court has guided on how you dispose-off the good left unpaid by customers.

Case citation – Makumbi Farms Cooperative Society Limited v Raanhe General Dealers (Appeal No. 62 of 2021) and judgement delivered this week on 19th April 2023.

Note – This is commentary on the case and not legal opinion.


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