Asset International Ltd v Bodyneat Panel & Paint Ltd [2017] NZDC 10436

Published 16 April 2018

Reserved judgment — breach of bailment — stolen car — loss of value — scope of duty — duty to take care — negligence — whether reasonable steps taken — Tottenham Investments Pty Limited v Carburettor Services Pty Limited [1994] Aust Torts Reports – 81 - 292 . The defendant company had possession of a vehicle belonging to the plaintiff company, the vehicle was stolen and damaged causing it to lose value. It was common ground that there was a bailment, and that the vehicle was stolen. The vehicle was stored at the defendant's workshop where 20 cars were kept, each car had it's keys left inside and accessible. The court found that the gate to the premises was closed and that it was not locked at lunchtime, the court further found that the gate should have been locked at that time and that as a result, appropriate care to prevent theft had not been taken. The defendant argued that it would not have been possible to prevent the theft once the thieves arrived and one distracted the owner. The court found that this was not a defence to the breach of bailment. The court noted that a failure to have CCTV cameras to provide a deterrent was a further breach of this obligation. The defendant argued that signage claiming that the vehicles were stored at the owner's risk was insufficient as the signs had not been brought to the plaintiff's attention in correspondence. Accordingly the court found that the defendant had not established an affirmative defence, and that it had not excluded liability under contract. The court found in favour of the plaintiff and damages were awarded. Judgment Date: 25 May 2017.

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