Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Detinue Definition:

A common law action similar to conversion and also involving the possession of property by the plaintiff may also ask for damages for the duration of the possession.

Related Terms: Mesne Profits

A common law action similar to conversion and also involving the possession of property.

Detinue was an action against a person who had received goods in transit - in the chain of commerce - or otherwise found the goods, but then refused to move them along and instead, wrongfully detained them.

The plaintiff in a detinue action asks for the return of the property in addition to damages for the duration of the possession.

In his Law Dictionary, John Bouvier wrote:

"The gist of the action is the wrongful detainer, and not the original taking. The possession must have been acquired by the defendant by lawful means, as by delivery, bailment, or. finding, and not tortiously."

Trover eventually replaced the action of detinue.

In the history of common law, trespass is sometimes recognized as the original tort action. But detinue, though later discontinued, was, in fact, of much older origin and thus, more deserving of the title of the original or first tort recognized in the common law.

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