detinue – recover personal property” (movable or intangible assets, but not “real property” such as land or buildings)

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1. A common-law action to recover personal property wrongfully taken or withheld by another. [1]

1. A common-law remedy for the recover in specie of chattels wrongfully withheld from the plaintiff.
See non-detinet; writ of detinue. [2]

1. A remedy under the common law for the recovery of wrongfully held personal property. [3]

Related Terms:

personal property – any movable or intangible thing that is subject to ownership and not classified as real property: i.e. money, goods, chattels, movables, a right of action, evidence of debt, stock, bond, mortgage.

detinue sur bailment [Law French] Hist. An action to recover property that the defendant acquired by bailment but refuses to return.

bailment1. A delivery of personal property by one person (the bailor) to another (the bailee) who holds the property for a certain purpose, usually under an express or implied-in-fact contract.  Unlike a sale or gift of personal property, a bailment involves a change in possession but not in title. Cf. PAWN. [1]

     Excerpt from Ray Andrews Brown’s The Law of Personal Property:

     “The customary definition of a bailment considers the transaction as arising out of contract.  Thus Justice Story defines a bailment as ‘a delivery of a thing in trust for some special object or purpose, and upon a contract express or implied, to conform to the object of purpose of the trust.’ [Joseph Story, Bailments 5 (9th Ed. 1878)] There has, however, been a vigorous dissent to this insistence on the contractual element in bailments. Professor Williston… defines bailments broadly ‘as the rightful possession of goods by one who is not the owner’ [4 Samuel Williston, Law of Contracts 2888 (rv. Ed. 1936)]….  It is obvious that the restricted definition of a bailment as a delivery of goods on a contract cannot stand the test of the actual cases.  The broader definition of Professor Williston is preferable.” [4]

     Excerpt from Bailments 8 Am. Jur. 2D):

     “Although a bailment is ordinarily created by the agreement of the parties, resulting in a consensual delivery & acceptance of the property, such a relationship may also result from the actions & conduct of the parties in dealing with the property in question. A bailment relationship can be implied by law whenever the personal property of one person is acquired by another & held under circumstances in which principles of justice require the recipient to keep the property safely & return it to the owner.” [5]

pawn n. (15c.) 1. An item of personal property deposited as security for a debt; a pledge or guarantee. In modern usage, the term is usually restricted to the pledge of jewels & other personal chattels to pawnbrokers as security for a small loan.  2. The act of depositing personal property in this manner.  3. The condition of being held on deposit as a pledge.  4. PIGNUS (1). pawn, vb.

pignus[Latin ‘pledge’] 1. Roman & civil law. (ital.) A bailment in which goods are delivered to secure the payment of a debt or performance of an engagement, accompanied by a power of sale in case of default. This type of bailment is for the benefit of both parties. — Also termed pawn; pledge.  See PIGNORATIO; IMPIGNORATION.

     Excerpt from John George Phillmore’s Private Law Among the Romans from the Pandects:

      “The ‘pignus’, pledge, is the right given to a creditor in the admitted property of another for his security; it is also used to signify the thing so given.[6]

pignoratio n. [Latin] 1. Roman law. The real contract (pignus) under which the debtor handed something over to a creditor as a security; the act of depositing as a pledge. — Also spelled pigneratio 2. Civil law. The impounding of another’s cattle (or other animals) that have damaged property until the cattle’s owner pays for the damage. — Pl. pignorationes.

inpignoration n. (16c.) Hist. The act or an instance of pawning or pledging. impignorate, vb.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Ray Andrews Brown, The Law of Personal Property § 73 73, at 252, 254 (2d Ed. 1955):

[5]: 8 Am. Jur. 2D Bailment § 1 (1997):

[6]: John George Phillmore, Private Law Among the Romans from the Pandects 210 (1863):


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