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GREENWOOD V. BENNET (1973; CA) FACTS Case concerning improvements done to a Jaguar motor car - for present purposes it may be treated as the property of their manager, Mr. Bennett, who was in charge of their garage at Truro it needed some repairs done to it so as to command a better price. So Mr. Bennett entrusted it to a Mr. Searle, who agreed to do the repairs for the sum of PS85. Instead of doing the repairs, he took it out on to the road and drove it for his own purposes - accident - it was extensively damaged, so much so that Mr. Searle, made up his mind to sell it himself in its damaged state - he sold it to Mr. Harper, for the sum of PS75 - Mr. Harper bought it in good faith for PS75 - Mr. Harper did a great deal of work on it himself - In all, it cost him PS226.47 for labour and material - Then he sold it to a finance company who let it on hire purchase to Mr. Prattle for
PS450. DENNING LJ Applying the principles stated by Lord Macnaghten, I should have thought that the county court judge here should have imposed a condition on the plaintiffs. He should have required them to pay Mr. Harper the PS226 as a condition of being given delivery of the car... But the judge did not impose such a condition. The plaintiffs have regained the car, and sold it. What then is to be done? It seems to me that we must order the plaintiffs to pay Mr. Harper the
PS226; for that is the only way of putting the position right. Mr. Rawlins has referred us to the familiar cases which say that a man is not entitled to compensation for work done on the goods or property of another unless there is a contract express or implied, to pay for it. We all remember the saying of Pollock C.B.: "One cleans another's shoes; what can the other do but put them on?" Taylor v. Laird (1856) 25 L.J.Ex. 329, 332. That is undoubtedly the law when the person who does the work knows, or ought to know, that the property does not belong to him. He takes the risk of not being paid for his work on it. But it is very different when he honestly believes himself to be the owner of the property and does the work in that belief. (That distinction is drawn in the mining cases such as Wood v. Morewood (1841) 3 Q.B. 440 and Livingstone v. Rawyards Coal Co. (1880) 5 App.Cas. 25). Here we have an innocent purchaser who bought the car in good faith and without notice of any defect in the title to it. He did work on it to the value of PS226. The law is hard enough on him when it makes him give up the car itself. It would be most unjust if the company could not only take the car from him, but also the value of the improvements he has done to it - without paying for them. There is a principle at hand to meet the case. It derives from the law of restitution. The plaintiffs should not be allowed unjustly to
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