Detinue occurs when a person comes in lawful possession of another’s goods but wrongfully continues to keep those goods after demands has been made for their return. The tort of detinue is:

  1. the wrongful detention of the chattel of another person even after a claim of specific return has been made.

A plaintiff can only maintain an action for the tort of detinue after satisfying two condition s which are:

  1. the plaintiff must have title to ownership or right to immediate possession of the chattel.
  2. the defendant who is in actual possession of the chattel must have failed to deliver the chattel to the plaintiff after the plaintiff has made a proper demand for the return of the chattel, without lawful excuse. thus, there must have been a demand by the plaintiff for the return of the chattel and a refusal or a failure to return them. this making of a demand by the plaintiff on the defendant is a condition precedent which the plaintiff must establish to succeed in his claim for detinue.

see the case of Kosile vs Folarin and West African Examination Council vs Koroye.


  1. in detinue, there must have been a demand for the return of the chattel  but a plaintiff cannot claim that in conversion.
  2. in detinue, the plaintiff is entitled to the value of the goods at the date of the trial whereas in conversion, the plaintiff is entitled to value at the date of the wrongful act.


in an action for detinue, the defendant may plead

  1. he has mere possession of the goods
  2. that the plaintiff has insufficient title compared to himself
  3. the defendant may plead jus tertii, i.e a third person has better title.
  4. innocent delivery
  5. subsisting bailment
  6. inevitable accident. see the case of National Coal Board v Evans.

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