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Bowmakers V. Barnett Instruments Notes

BCL Law Notes > Restitution of Unjust Enrichment BCL Notes

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BOWMAKERS V. BARNETT INSTRUMENTS FACTS The plaintiffs, Bowmakers, Ld., sued the defendants, Barnet Instruments, Ld., to recover damages for the conversion of certain machine tools which they alleged were their property. The tools in question were the subject of three hiring agreements between the plaintiffs and the defendants. In each case the machines were originally the property of a man named Smith, who was prepared to sell them to the defendants at prices which they were willing to pay, though not at once. The goods comprised in the first agreement were originally the subject of a contract of sale between Smith and the defendants, but this contract was rescinded. Eventually it was arranged in every case, for the convenience of the defendants, that the defendants should obtain possession of the machines, not by a direct purchase from Smith, but under a hire-purchase agreement from the plaintiffs. In pursuance of this arrangement Smith sold the goods to the plaintiffs, and the plaintiffs entered into the three agreements with the defendants. The contracts between the plaintiffs and the defendants were in a familiar form. Each of them contained a provision for the monthly payment of hire and further provided that "if the hirer shall duly make the said payments and strictly observe and perform all the terms and conditions on his part herein contained then the hirer shall thereupon have the option of purchasing the said chattels for the sum of ten shillings." The defendants after making some, but by no means all the agreed payments, sold for their own advantage, and so converted to their use, all the machines except that one which was the subject of agreement 2, and this latter they also converted to their own use by refusing to deliver it up to the plaintiffs on demand. They maintained however, that the plaintiffs had no remedy against them. Ministry of Supply Regulations: On October 4, 1940, the Minister of Supply, in exercise of powers conferred on him by regs. 55 and 98 of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, made an order ( St. R. & O., 1940, No. 1784 ), which admittedly applied to them. The material clause of the order was as follows: "No person shall pay or receive any price (except a provisional price subject to any adjustment that may be required upon determination of the maximum price) for any machine tool produced in the United Kingdom and delivered or to be delivered in the United Kingdom after the coming into force of this order under a contract of sale whenever made (a) until a maximum price for that machine tool shall have been provided by a special or general direction issued by the Minister of Supply, or (b) in excess of the maximum price so provided."

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