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McKenzie v Scotia Lumber Co (1913), 11 DLR 729 (NS SC)

Facts:

Plaintiff owned a raft that floated away and attached itself to two other rafts belonging to the defendants. Defendants sent their servants to get the rafts. Servants mistakenly grabbed all three rafts. As soon as the defendants realized that they had someone else's raft, they returned it.

Issue(s):

Whether a person who takes the property of another, mistaking it for her own, but returns it to the owner immediately upon discovery of the mistake, can be held liable for conversion of the property.

Ratio:

Innocent mistake is not a defence in conversion: A person who takes the property of another, mistaking it for her own, but returning it to the owner immediate upon discovery of the mistake, may be held liable for conversion of the property.

Analysis:

Yes, liable in conversion, but:
** Cannot have the full property (boat back) and full damages for conversion at the same time;
** Nominal damages only.

Holding:

Appeal allowed; judgment for plaintiff for nominal damages only.


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